A light-absorbing midnight-black substance dubbed Aerographite has stolen the crown for the lightest material in the world, weighing just 0.2mg per cubic centimetre. And because of its special properties, it's a serious contender to build lithium-ion batteries small and light enough to power the electronic bikes and cars of the future.
Boffins in Germany constructed the new material by weaving together a network of porous carbon tubes at nano and micro level to create the stuff that is 75 times lighter than polystyrene.
"Think of the Aerographite as an ivy-web, which winds itself around a tree. And then take away the tree," said Prof Rainer Adelung of Kiel Uni.
The previous record-holder for lightest-ever stuff was also made of nanotubes – but those weren't porous, and were made of nickel rather than carbon, which made the material heavier. “The hitherto lightest material of the world, a nickel material that was presented to the public about six months ago, is also constructed of tiny tubes. Only, nickel has a higher atomic mass than carbon. Also, we are able to produce tubes with porous walls. That makes them extremely light," said co-author Arnim Schuchard, a PhD student at Kiel University.
Adelung and other researchers from Kiel Uni and the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) worked together to make the substance using a powdered zinc oxide.