Well, perhaps not soon but it is coming.
Lighter, stronger, cheaper and faster are the drivers behind military bridging, since an army of men needed to cross a gap many hundreds of years ago until the sophisticated military bridging systems in service today these factors have been both limiting and influencers of design.
From wood to iron and steel to sophisticated aluminium alloys materials have always influenced the length of gap that can be crossed with the required durability and load carrying capacity.
Military bridging equipment manufacturers have looked at composites but none have entered service in numbers because they don’t offer a leap in capabilities unlike for example, metal alloys, but a new discovery by MiT might just have the possibility to be the next big thing in materials for use in military bridging, amongst many other things of course.
The researchers at MiT’s Center for Bits and Atoms have published a paper that describes a revolutionary new material
Ensuring the light-weight and high-strength properties of carbon-fiber composite materials is costly. Cheung and Gershenfeld (p. 1219, published online 15 August; see the Perspective by Schaedler et al.) have mass-produced cross-sectional parts that can be assembled into strong, ultralight lattices. Carbon-fiber composites are sliced into cross-shaped pieces that can be independently tested and reliably assembled into rigid and reversible cuboctahedral lattices.
Read the paper at the link below
The work was of course sponsored by DARPA
Another article at MiT describes the advantages
A new lightweight structure that snaps together in tiny blocks like the bricks of a has been developed by researchers at MIT. Researchers are saying the new material may revolutionize the assembly of large structures such as aircraft, spacecraft, and dikes and levees. Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, compares the structure, made from tiny, identical, interlocking parts, to chainmail.
The parts, based on a novel geometry that study co-author Kenneth Cheung developed with Gershenfeld, form a structure that is 10 times stiffer for a given weight than existing ultralight materials. But this new structure can also be taken apart and reassembled easily, in order to repair damage, or to recycle the parts into a different configuration, something that cannot be done readily with current composite materials.
Read more here
The research investigates novel fabrication methods, small building blocks being assembled to make larger structures instead of the large monolithic composite structures in use today.
It is the construction geometry that is the main subject of the research and one that yields the most striking test results, 10 times the stiffness of other lightweight composite materials.
One of the most interesting features of this new method is the resulting structure fails progressively under load rather than catastrophically like conventional composites. They can also be easily repaired, again, unlike existing composites. 3D printing is used to fabricate the structures which is the final cherry on the cake, no more huge jigs for composite panels and structures, instead, a very sophisticated lego.
Gizmag has a good write up here
One to follow