Engineers looked below the sea surface to design this incredibly strong, lightweight structure. The ceramic scaffold building block is inspired by the hierarchical construction of marine diatoms, radiolarians and sea sponges.
Drawing inspiration from organisms with silica skeletons, the one cubic millimeter blocks have demonstrated incredible tensile strength even though most of the structure is air. The strength, says the California Institute of Technology team that created the material, comes from using tiny structural elements that minimize potential flaws.
"Our findings suggest that the hierarchical design principles offered by hard biological organisms can be applied to create damage-tolerant lightweight engineering materials," the researchers conclude in a paper published in the journal Nature Materials.