A team of researchers from Deep Springs Technology (DST) and the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering have developed the first lightweight metal matrix syntactic foam. The matrix composite, made with a magnesium alloy and silicon carbide hollow spheres, can float on water and withstand thousands of pounds of pressure per square inch without sinking. Each hollow sphere can handle the damage by acting as an energy absorber during a fracture.

The research also shows that the new material will improve automotive fuel economy due to its combination of weight and heat resistance. Nikhil Gupta, an NYU School of Engineering professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering who co-authored the study, believes the findings could forecast an attitude change in the composites industry.

“This new development of very light metal matrix composites can swing the pendulum back in favor of metallic materials,” said Gupta. “The ability of metals to withstand higher temperatures can be a huge advantage for these composites in engine and exhaust components, quite apart from structural parts.”

The new foam can be applied to boat floors, car parts, buoyancy modules and vehicle armor.

Read the full study, “Dynamic Properties of Silicon Carbide Hollow Particle Filled Magnesium Alloy (AZ91D) Matrix Syntactic Foams,” in the International Journal of Impact Engineering.