“We’re shifting the paradigm of materials creation towards something that’s driven by the end goal. So instead of saying, ‘these are all the processes that are available to us, and so the material that we can expect would have these kind of properties’, we’re doing it backwards.”

Strong, stiff materials that are up to 99% air are well on their way to commercialization, says Julia Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In this World Economic Forum video, Professor Greer talks about the use of “hierarchical design” and the impact it will have on efficiency and the prominence of solar cells.