German material scientists from Kiel University and the Hamburg University of Technology have created the world’s lightest material, dubbed aerographite.
One cubic centimeter of aerographite weighs just 0.2 milligrams, which is four times lighter than the previous record holder, 5,000 times less dense than water, and six times lighter than air. Aerographite is so light that it is difficult to work with it in a normal lab. Any small movement in the lab can create winds that blow the material around.
“If you wanted to have one kilogram of this material it would be five cubic metres large. That means a one square metre base, which goes five metres up in the air like a house or tower – that would be one kilogram. You would need about 14 car boots if you wanted to transport this kilogram,” says researcher Matthias Mecklenburg.
Aerographite is a mesh of carbon tubes, each around 15nm in diameter, interwoven at the micro and nano-scale level. Because of its lightness and relatively large surface area, aerographite could enable the creation of much lighter lithium-ion batteries. It could be used for waterproof clothes, for lighter computers, for air and water filtration and also for protective shielding for satellites.
The material is created by putting zinc oxide crystals in special ovens and then heating them to 900 degrees Celsius.
The material was presented to the scientific community, and the public, in an article in the publication “Advanced Materials” in July of this year.