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Composite Metal Foam Offers Increased Strength at a Reduced Weight

Credit: Unsplash

It’s kind of like the metallic equivalent of bubble wrap.

Bubble wrap, despite seeming soft and squishy, is an excellent way to keep small objects safe from outside impacts. As long as nothing pierces the material, the bubbles work in tandem to keep their contents safely cushioned and suspended. Now, consider for a moment: what if you could take the defensive properties of bubble wrap, and not only multiply them exponentially, but super-size them to building proportions? That’s exactly what mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Afsaneh Rabiei has been working on for the past 20 years.

Rabiei’s invention is known as “composite metal foam,” or “CMF.” The way it works is metallic bubbles are filled up with air, then suspended in a metal medium sheet such as aluminum or steel. It works similarly to bubble wrap, except the metallic bubbles are even harder to pierce. With the raw strength of metal combined with those cushioning bubbles, CMF can repel all sorts of threats, from heavy impacts to bullets. Since the majority of its construction is literal air, it’s also much lighter than a normal sheet of metal without sacrificing any strength.

Rabiei created her own company, Advanced Materials Manufacturing, to market CMF to the world, and is looking to market it for transportation, safety, and military applications. “Through many years of our research, CMF’s benefits have been proven through civilian, academic, and military testing,” Rabiei told TechXplore. “The most exciting thing is to see it grow and start saving lives and change the world into a better and safer place for our future generations.”

Rabiei hopes that her creation can become a vital component in the society of the future. “My vision is that years from now this would be in every household,” Rabiei said. “I just wish I’ll be alive to see that. It’s like sending your kid out and wishing to see them growing into a successful person.”