The newest class of cast metal matrix composites (MMCs) fortifies aluminum with nanoparticles to produce materials that can withstand enormous amounts of stress, are exceptionally hard, but are also lightweight. Nanoparticles are smaller than 100 nanometers (about the size of a baseball shrunk to one-millionth of its original size) that sometimes behave differently than larger particles.
A nanostructured aluminum can be 10 times stronger than conventional aluminum alloys.
Pradeep Rohatgi is working on turns metals into foam.
Unlike Styrofoam, in which air is pumped into a plastic matrix, syntactic (metallic) foam is filled with hollow micro-balloons set into a metal base. The tiny balloons are made from recycled "fly-ash"-- waste materials generated by coal-burning power plants – and they house either various gases or are a vacuum inside.