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Boeing says it created lightest metal ever

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NEW YORK — Boeing says it’s created the lightest metal ever, a microlattice material which it describes as 99.99% air.

Weight savings are crucially important in aircraft manufacturing, since a lighter aircraft requires less fuel, which is airlines’ largest operating expense.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was a breakthrough commercial jet because it used light-weight composite carbon fiber material, rather than aluminum, to generate the best fuel efficiency in its class.

The microlattice looks like a sponge or a mesh, and is simultaneously flexible and very strong, according to Boeing. Details on exactly how much it weighs were not disclosed by the company, and it isn’t ready to be used in any aircraft yet.

Should it become widely used, Boeing said the material could help airlines save huge amounts of money.

Boeing describes the new microlattice as an “open cellular polymer structure.” The main use of the material would be structural components, such as sidewall or floor panels of commercial jets.

The company gave no time frame for when the material might actually be ready for commercial use.