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The versatile characteristics and applications of ultra-light porous metal materials

The versatile characteristics and applications of ultra-light porous metal materials

Porous metals with high porosity can be classified into two categories based on the regularity of their microstructure: disordered and ordered. The former includes foamed materials (both open-cell and closed-cell), while the latter mainly refers to lattice materials (with open cells). Compared to traditional materials, porous metals exhibit a diverse range of microstructures. While maintaining a high porosity, the pore size can gradually decrease from millimeter to micrometer or even nanometer scale. Therefore, porous metals possess excellent designability, allowing for optimized design and multifunctional, interdisciplinary collaboration in their microstructure prior to fabrication, according to specific application requirements.

Typically, the weight of porous metal materials per unit volume is only 1/10 or lighter than that of solid materials, and the microstructure of different configurations significantly affects the mechanical and other physical properties of the materials. In addition to bearing loads, these materials can also serve other functions, such as utilizing the porous characteristics of the materials for convective heat transfer to meet temperature control requirements, as well as absorbing and reducing noise, shielding electromagnetic radiation, absorbing impact energy, and damping vibrations.

Silver Foam (2)

The diverse capabilities of porous metals

The high porosity of ultra-light porous metal materials gives them unique multifunctional composite properties, including:

(1) ultra-light: The density of ultra-light porous materials is significantly lower than that of traditional solid materials. Although the preparation methods and processes of different porous materials vary, the porosity of ultra-light porous materials is always high (>80%), sometimes even up to 99%. This means that their density can be as low as 1% of their base material. Taking porous aluminum foam as an example, if its porosity is 90%, then its density is only 0.27g/cm3, which is only 1/4 of the density of water.

(2) high strength and toughness: Numerous experimental results have demonstrated that porous metals exhibit a nearly constant stress during the plastic deformation stage (nominal strain ranging from 0.5% to 75%) when subjected to compressive stress. During deformation, a significant amount of energy is transformed into plastic deformation, dissipating as heat. This makes porous metals an excellent material for impact protection. Additionally, porous metals possess typical toughness, which prevents catastrophic failure in the presence of cracks and defects. This property is advantageous for monitoring damage and its progression. For instance, foam aluminum alloy-filled structures are utilized in automobiles as impact boxes for frontal collisions or as drill guards for trucks.

Copper Foam 1 18

(3) high specific strength and high specific stiffness: Honeycomb aluminum laminates (closed-cell), which have been widely used in the aviation industry, have excellent mechanical properties. However, they are expensive compared to closed-cell foam aluminum, with the international market price of honeycomb aluminum being 100 to 1000 times higher. Additionally, honeycomb aluminum exhibits strong directional properties. Researchers have discovered that lattice materials, which have much lower manufacturing costs, can achieve comparable specific stiffness to honeycomb materials and even higher specific strength. Furthermore, lattice materials, being porous structures, possess various additional functionalities that honeycomb materials lack, such as forced convection heat dissipation and noise reduction.

(4) Efficient Heat Dissipation and Insulation: Perforated porous metals are excellent heat transfer media under forced convection and can be used as heat dissipation devices for structures that endure high-density heat flux, such as aerospace vehicles and high-speed trains, as well as for microelectronic devices like high-speed chips. Additionally, filling insulation fibers in high porosity lattice truss structures can achieve the dual purpose of insulation and load-bearing, finding wide applications in aerospace structural insulation components, thermal protective layers for electronic devices, and insulation layers for nuclear power plant exchangers.

(5) Noise Management: Preliminary research suggests that perforated foam metal and lattice materials have good sound absorption effects, with optimal absorption achieved when the aperture size is between 0.1 and 0.5mm. Compared to traditional sound-absorbing materials, porous metals offer significant advantages such as high specific stiffness/strength, non-toxicity, corrosion resistance, and high temperature resistance.

Copper Foam, What Is The Application Prospect Of This New Material-2

(6) multifunctional integration: In addition to the advantages mentioned above, another characteristic of porous metals is their abundance of internal space, which makes it relatively easy to achieve multifunctional integration. For example, if foam nickel is used as the core of a laminated panel, its extremely high specific surface area can serve as both a structural component to withstand mechanical loads and as an energy storage material, while also acting as a chemical reaction medium for batteries to improve their reaction efficiency and current density. Furthermore, if porous materials are made into laminated structures with coolant flow for enhanced heat dissipation and reinforced with better heat-resistant (or ablative) materials on the outer layer, they can be used as highly efficient lightweight insulation and heat dissipation materials in aerospace vehicles. By combining optimized microstructures of porous materials with absorptive materials on the outer surface, better stealth and noise reduction can be achieved in aircraft and ships. Additionally, by selectively introducing sensing and actuating elements into certain parts of porous materials, various functions of smart structures can be realized, such as active control of aircraft shape, deployable space telescopes, and satellite reflection, among others.

Picture of Lu


Our materials research team from Tsinghua University postdoctoral researcher lin and Harbin Institute of Technology researcher Mu, Nanjing University of Technology researcher Wei, they share their expertise in foam metal materials article.

About HGP

WE were established in 2003, located in the Gaoxin Zone of Guangdong-Guangxi Cooperation Special Experimental Zone, covering an area of 70 mu, with a plant of about 30,000 square meters, with more than 170 employees, is an advanced new material technology enterprise integrating research and development, production and sales.

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