Graphene aerogel claims title of world’s lightest material

Amin Kassam, 25/03/2013
If it's lighter than helium which is lighter than air, then why does it not float away?  Read More

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A new aerogel made from graphene looks set to claim the title of the world's lightest material.

Created by a research team from China's Zhejiang University, the aerogel has an ultra low density of just 0.16mg/cm³, lower than the density of helium and of the aerographite material which until now held the crown.

According to the researchers, the material can absorb up to 900 times its own weight in oil, making it attractive for cleaning up oil spills. It is also said to be very strong and extremely elastic.

To create the aerogel, the researchers turned to the wonder material known as graphene.

The team, led by Professor Gao Chao, used a new method known as freeze-drying that involved freeze-drying solutions of carbon nanotubes and graphene to create a carbon sponge that can be arbitrarily adjusted to any shape.

"With no need for templates, its size only depends on that of the container," Prof Chao explained. "A bigger container can help produce the aerogel in a bigger size, even to thousands of cubic centimetres or larger."

The researchers are now exploring other possible applications for the material, and say it could have potential as a phase change energy storage insulation material, catalytic carrier or efficient composite.

Author
Laura Hopperton

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Comments
If it's lighter than helium which is lighter than air, then why does it not float away?

Comments Amin Kassam, 25/03/2013
 
Perhaps it does not float because it is sponge like and absorbs a certain amount of moisture from the air, which adds to it's weight?

Comments Gareth Jenkins, 25/03/2013
 
I think it's because it still has air in and around it. That figure of 0.16mg/cm^3 refers to the extra mass due to the aerogel . So a 1cm cube of the stuff weighs 0.16mg for the aerogel plus 1.2mg for the air: total of approx 1.4mg. But if you were to somehow remove all the air then, yes, it would float.

Comments CountLudwig, 25/03/2013
 
Could it be a useful material for filling balloons and dirigibles (ignoring the need to adjust ballast etc to go up and down).

Comments Mark, 26/03/2013

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