Materials scientists in California have made a special metallic glass with a strength and toughness greater than any known material, using a recipe that could yield a new method for materials fabrication.
The glass, a microalloy made of palladium, has a chemical structure that counteracts the inherent brittleness of glass but maintains its strength. It’s not very dense and it is more lightweight than steel, with comparable heft to an aluminum or titanium alloy.
At a basic level, you probably know that building materials are stronger in certain axes than others. While you could learn all about moments of inertia and beam bending, what the average DIY builder really needs is an intuitive sense of the practical ways you can configure whatever you're building with to make it stronger. Whether you're building a tank or a table, understanding the forces at work will help make it both light and strong.
Recently, I built a kitchen table for a couple in NYC using thin metal for the main support. Here are a few simple tricks for adding strength without adding much weight.