Engineers at the University of Kiel (in Germany) and Hamburg University have discovered the world’s lightest material by chance. It’s called aerographite. It is 6 times lighter than air and 75 times lighter than Styrofoam (a closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam). At the same time, aerographite is said to be incredibly strong, yet very flexible.
A cubic centimeter of aerographite weighs just two-ten-thousands of a gram. It is lighter than air. But the most interesting thing is that 99.9% of the material is made of air. The rest of space is filled with a mesh network of carbon (the main element of the material).
Aerogrpahite is very flexible, yet strong enough to withstand lot of pressure. It can move back to its original shape after being squashed. And, the most important property is that the material can conduct electricity.
Engineers first considered aerographite to be used in batteries. This material can make batteries lighter and increase their efficiency. Other possible applications could be in super capacitors, in satellites etc. Engineers are currently testing different fields of application.
Aerographite was discovered by PhD student Matthias Mecklenburg in September 2010. He was working under Professor Karl Schulte of Hamburg University and discovered the material by chance. Mecklenburg, his mentor, and colleagues under Professor Rainer Adelung at the Christian Albrechts University in Kiel have been working to introduce aerographite to the world since then. They have finally published the results in Advanced Materials journal this July.
Source: Deutsche Welle