Scientists at Zhejiang University in China have developed an ultra-light material known as carbon aerogel. The scientists behind it claim it is the lightest material ever manufactured.
Some details from the review in Nature. The aerogel is described as extremely elastic. It can absorb up to 900 times their own weight in oil, only oil not water. In addition, the aerogel can absorb organics at a high speed: one gram of such aerogel can absorb 68.8 grams of organics per second. It can be useful in dealing with oil spills at sea or in water purification and air purification. Apart from that, the aerogel may also be made into ideal phase change energy storage insulation material, catalytic carrier or efficient composite.
It is so light that a slender grass known as Setaria can easily bear its weight without visibly bending. Although the material is in a solid state, it contains many internal pores filled with air – explaining its minimal density.
To produce the spongy substance, a team led by Professor Chao Gao freeze-dried solutions of carbon nanotubes and graphene to remove the moisture while retaining integrity. It is just lighter than a record-breaking graphite aerogel made by German researchers in 2012. Prof Chao Gao says that the freeze-drying technique they used makes manufacturing it more convenient than traditional methods.
Read more: phys.org