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Metal Foam Could be the Future of all Metals

The new type of metal is 70% lighter than regular metal.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina State University professor Dr. Afsaneh Rabiei knew during the war in Iraq she could develop a technology that would save lives.

It’s something strong, but lightweight. It’s porous enough to absorb a tremendous amount of energy. It took more than a decade, but Rabiei told CBS 17 WNCN how she is able to show the result of her work.

It's a type of porous metal, it's light and even performs better than regular metal. In basic terms, it’s almost like a bubble wrap used to protect glass, but on steroids. It’s at least 70 percent lighter than the same amount of metal.

Rabiei named her invention “metal foam.” It’s filled with tiny spheres that compress on impact to protect what’s on the other side — like when someone in a vehicle is hit with armor-piercing ammunition. That includes a recent test on a highly explosive incendiary that can travel at about 5,000 feet per second.

Much of the research is done at N.C. State where Rabiei teaches according to WNCN. An agreement with the US Department of Defense means the process used to make metal foam is top secret. But, it goes far beyond the military — it could be used in vehicles, trains, nuclear power plants, space travel, and construction.

Click here to read Rabiei’s research paper on her metal foam.