Last year, researchers at the University of California Irvine developed a material that was as strong as metal yet 100 times lighter than Styrofoam — but now a team of German scientists claim to have bested them with a new material called aerographite, which weighs in at a mere 0.2 milligrams per cubic centimeter. The scientists, from Kiel University (KU) and Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), claim that their porous carbon material is the lightest in the world .
Aerographite is created from a network of porous carbon tubes that is three-dimensionally interwoven at nano and micro level, which is what it so staggeringly light. Curiously, the German team behind aerographite claim it is 75 times lighter than styrofoam—which would make it heavier than the material developed at UC Irvine. However, the German scientists claim that the American nickel material isn’t quite ’100 times lighter than styrofoam’ as UC Irvine’s scientists had claimed.
“Our work is causing great discussions in the scientific community. Aerographite weighs four times less than the world-record-holder up to now”, says Matthias Mecklenburg, co-author and Ph.D. student at the TUHH. The German scientists’ claim that the US-developed nickel material that was presented to the public about six months ago (which is also constructed of tiny tubes) has a higher atomic mass than carbon.
“Also, we are able to produce tubes with porous walls. That makes them extremely light”, adds Arnim Schuchard, co-author and Ph.D. student at Kiel University. The black material is electrically conductive, ductile and non-transparent, all of which give it a very low density. Aerographite is also highly resilient and has an excellent compression and tension load.
“It is able to be compressed up to 95 percent and be pulled back to its original form without any damage”, says Professor Rainer Adelung of Kiel University. “Up to a certain point the Aerographite will become even more solid and therefore stronger than before. Also, the newly constructed material absorbs light rays almost completely. One could say it creates the blackest black.”
It is hoped that aerographite will be used to fit onto the electrodes of lithium ion batteries, which could lead to an important reduction in the batteries’ weight. However the team also believe it could be used in the electrical conductivity of synthetic materials, but in truth the applications are limitless.
The scientific results were published as the title story in the scientific journal “Advanced Materials” on July, 3rd. Today (Tuesday, July 17th) it is presented to the public.
Images © University of Kiel