Researchers Discover Unsinkable Aluminum Foam

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A new form of aluminum has been developed by scientists at the Petersburg Polytechnic University of Russia. This buoyant porous aluminum foam has the potential to make any ship that uses the material virtually unsinkable as long as the water that leaks does not exceed the buoyancy of the foam.

The team of scientists created aluminum foam by adding foaming gas into liquid metal during the re-melting of the aluminum material. The porous material can be utilized to increase the stiffness of the structure as well as boost sound and heat insulating properties.

“High porosity level can be used to decrease the density of structural elements, e.g. sheets. The density can be decreased even lower than the density of water. Such structural elements will be unsinkable. And its usage in shipbuilding will ensure unsinkability even with the leak in the hull”, says Oleg Panchenko, deputy head of the Laboratory of Light Materials and Structures SPbPU, one of the inventors. (

The carrying capacity of thin materials is sufficient for a lot of structures but often times come with many shaping limitations because they are too thin for manipulation. Due to the holes in the aluminum foam, it is possible for researchers to increase the thickness of the metal while maintaining the same weight as before.

Japan also has a patent on a similar material but their version is always entirely porous as opposed to Russia’s. The researchers at Petersburg found a way to produce both homogeneous and heterogeneous distribution methods of the pores. Since aluminum foam is made from a solid material it can be made with the holes spread evenly throughout the structure or set in between two layers of completely solid material. Using this method creates dual layers so that areas can be allocated for bolts or welded joints that would not have been possible if the material was completely porous.

This material creates plenty of new opportunity for watercraft manufacturers. An unsinkable boat will no doubt have customers looking to buy. Aluminum foam also opens up new ways for aluminum manufacturers to produce their product. New materials are always an exciting introduction to the manufacturing community and it will be interesting to see how the industry embraces this new technology. For more information on all the latest industry developments make sure to check back with Manufacturing Talk Radio soon.