The world's lightest material is only one sixth as dense as air

Zhejiang University

What you see above is the lightest material ever created, held up by the very tips of leaves. Researchers from the Zhejiang University in China created their wondrous new carbon aerogel sponge using a mixture of carbon nanotubes and graphene.

According to the researchers, the material has a density of 0.16 milligrams per cubic-centimeter (mg/cc). To put that in perspective, air weighs 1.2 mg/cc at sea level, so the carbon aerogel is actually one sixth less than the air we breathe.

To create this extremely light slab of carbon, the researchers employed a high-tech freeze-drying system to completely remove any moisture from the block. The researchers also say that sponge you see is just a sample and that the production method could be easily scaled up to produce meter-length pieces.

The researchers say that this aerogel's light weight makes it good for soaking up organic solvents such as oil. Supposedly, this carbon aerogel soak up to 900 times its own weight.

"Carbon aerogel is expected to play an important role in pollution control such as oil spill control, water purification[,] and even air purification," Professor Gao Chao, one of the lead researchers in the project, said in a press release.

Previously, the lightest-weight material we’ve seen was an aerographite material that weighed 0.2 mg/cc, preceded by a micro-lattice at 0.9 mg/cc.

[Zhejiang University via Wired]

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