Researchers Confirm Discovery of Floating Aluminium
23 September 2017 by Staff
Like most common metals, aluminium lacks natural buoyancy. However, with a little rearranging of the metal’s natural molecular structure, one can produce an ultra-light crystalline form of the metal that is actually less dense than water and, as a result, floats upon it.
Research conducted by Utah State University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry professor Alexander Boldyrev and published in the latest issue of The Journal of Physical Chemistry C has yielded just such a crystalline form using computational modeling.
“My colleagues’ approach to this challenge was very innovative,” explained Boldyrev. “They started with a known crystal lattice, in this case, a diamond, and substituted every carbon atom with an aluminum tetrahedron.”
Boldyrev’s colleagues, namely Iliya Getmanskii, Vitaliy Koval, Rusian Minyaev, and Vladimir Minkin of Southern Federal University in Rostov-on Don, Russia, confirmed the structure which is metastable and has a density of 0.61 grams per cubic centimeter. By comparison, conventional aluminium possesses a density of 2.7 grams per cubic centimeter.
“That means the new crystallized form will float on water, which has a density of one gram per cubic centimeter,” says Boldyrev.
According to the research team, the potential for the new aluminium structure is vast, as the metal already features such useful traits as being non-magnetic, resistant to corrosion, easily available, and generally inexpensive to produce.
“Spaceflight, medicine, wiring and more lightweight, more fuel-efficient automotive parts are some applications that come to mind. Of course, it’s very early to speculate about how this material could be used. There are many unknowns. For one thing, we don’t know anything about its strength.”
Though the discovery itself is important, Boldyrev says the way in which it was made is also of significance.
“An amazing aspect of this research is the approach: using a known structure to design a new material. This approach paves the way for future discoveries.”