New Metallic Bubble Wrap- Lighter, Stronger and More Flexible

Metallic Bubble Wrap

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a new metallic bubble wrap that is lighter, stronger and more flexible than sheet metal and more heat- and chemical-resistant than plastic or other polymer-based bubble wraps. Potential applications include automobile body panels, the wing edges of airplanes, suitcases, helmets and cases for computers and other electronic devices.
It’s said to be 20 to 30 percent lighter while offering 30 to 50 percent more bending strength. Its tensile strength is essentially the same.

“This material does exactly what sheet metal and other bubble wraps do, but better,” said Dr. Afsaneh Rabiei, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and the lead researcher on the project.

Rabiei developed the metallic bubble wrap to offer protection in areas that are only a few millimeters thick. To be effective, such materials must be thin enough to fit inside tightly spaced product linings, flexible enough to withstand twisting and bending, and strong enough to protect the contents inside.

Metallic Bubble Wrap is 20 to 30 percent lighter while offering 30 to 50 percent more bending strength

Rabiei created it by first dotting a thin sheet of aluminum with tiny indentations, using a studded roller. A foaming agent, calcium carbonate or titanium hydrate, was deposited in those indentations, and then another sheet of aluminum was laid over top of the first one. Next, a heavy roller was used to bond the two sheets together, trapping the foaming agent between them. Finally, everything was placed in a furnace. The heat caused the foaming agent to decompose and bubble, transforming the indentations into bubbles between the two layers of the aluminum sandwich.

The researchers applied a variety of mechanical tests to the metallic bubble wrap to evaluate its properties and compare it with the original bulk sheet metal.

“The way we created this material could be used for any sheet metal, not just aluminum,” Rabiei said. “We plan to further develop our metallic bubble wrap and hope it eventually offers better protection for products and the public.”

This metallic bubble wrap was designed to be more durable than regular bubble wrap and other packing materials

The group presented their invention for the first time on June 24 at the 8th International Conference on Porous Metals and Metallic Foams in Raleigh, NC, and they are in the process of publishing their first scientific paper describing it. The project is not yet funded, and the team is waiting for funding before moving further in development.

Rabiei’s keynote presentation, including the metallic bubble wrap and its method of processing, was picked as one of the technical highlights of the conference by the audience. A poster presentation on the topic received the first place poster award.
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Write by: RC - Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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