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HRL developing ultralight materials for future aerospace vehicles and structures

HRL Laboratories, LLC, a corporate research-and-development laboratory owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors, will develop new ultra-lightweight materials for future aerospace vehicles and structures under NASA’s Game Changing Development Program. These new materials can enable NASA to reduce the mass of spacecraft for deep space exploration by 40% and are necessary for the journey to Mars and beyond.

The focus of HRL’s effort is to develop ultralight sandwich panels based on its ultra-light lattice core materials. Attaching thin, stiff facesheets to the top and bottom surfaces of a relatively thick, lightweight core makes such structures. Sandwich structures provide high torsional and bending rigidity at low weight and have become the standard for lightweight design in the aerospace industry. While foam and honeycomb cores are used currently, additional weight savings and performance increases are sought from advanced cores.

Led by Dr. Tobias Schaedler, HRL’s team will develop lighter and stronger cores with innovative truss architectures that will be combined with carbon fiber composite facesheets. The HRL approach combines ultra-stiff and ultra-strong materials (such as nanocrystalline metals) that provide higher strength than conventional materials with highly optimized truss architectures that enable unprecedented degrees of freedom to tailor the mechanical performance.

HRL specializes in research into sensors and materials; information and systems sciences; applied electromagnetics; and microelectronics.


  • T. A. Schaedler, A. J. Jacobsen, A. Torrents, A. E. Sorensen, J. Lian, J. R. Greer, L. Valdevit, and W. B. Carter (2011) “Ultralight Metallic Microlattices” Science 334 (6058), 962-965 doi: 10.1126/science.1211649


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