If you thought air was the lightest thing in the world, researchers in Germany have cooked up a recipe to beat that claim. Meet Aerographite, officially the lightest material in the world, created by German scientists from Kiel University and Hamburg University of Technology. Among the various possible applications for Aerographite, there’s a great chance it will revolutionize the future of batteries and wearable computing (think invisibility cloaks!).
According to press release, weighing at 0.2 mg per cubic centimetre Aerographite is six times lighter than air and over four times lighter than the previously heralded lightest material in the world. Consisting of a network of three-dimensional carbon nanotubes, Aerographite is not only lighter than air and 75 times lighter than Styrofoam (closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam), it’s also a lot stronger.
Professor Rainer Adelung of Kiel University describes the construction process, “Think of the Aerographite as an ivy-web, which winds itself around a tree. And than take away the tree.” What remains is the lightest material in the world.
Lightweight materials, for e.g. cotton, generally withstand compression, but break when pulled apart. Scientists say that Aerographite features both the properties: compression and tension. Aerographite can be pulled back to its original form, even after compressing it to 95 percent of its original shape, without any structural damage.
What’s more, Aerographite can conduct electricity, which means it has applications in certain fields of engineering and technology. Researchers suggest that Aerographite’s strength and conductivity increases as it undergoes compression.
As far Aerographite’s applications are concerned, scientists involved in its creation believe that Aerographite “could fit onto the electrodes of Li-ion batteries” due to its unique material characteristics. Resulting future batteries with Aerographite would need only a minimal amount of battery electrolyte, which would reduce a battery’s weight drastically. Think of ultra-light batteries and supercapacitors, and you can start to see how Aerographite can genuinely revolutionize certain aspects of personal technology.
According to the release, further areas of application could be the electrical conductivity of synthetic materials. Aerographite also has some other interesting characteristics -- it’s hydrophobic (repels water) and absorbs visible light. It also doesn’t register on X-rays.
Read more about Aerographite on Kiel University’s website.