Graphene aerogel claims title of world’s lightest material

A new aerogel made from graphene looks set to claim the title of the world's lightest material.

Created by a research team from China's Zhejiang University, the aerogel has an ultra low density of just 0.16mg/cm³, lower than the density of helium and of the aerographite material which until now held the crown.

According to the researchers, the material can absorb up to 900 times its own weight in oil, making it attractive for cleaning up oil spills. It is also said to be very strong and extremely elastic.

To create the aerogel, the researchers turned to the wonder material known as graphene.

The team, led by Professor Gao Chao, used a new method known as freeze-drying that involved freeze-drying solutions of carbon nanotubes and graphene to create a carbon sponge that can be arbitrarily adjusted to any shape.

"With no need for templates, its size only depends on that of the container," prof Chao explained. "A bigger container can help produce the aerogel in a bigger size, even to thousands of cubic centimetres or larger."

The researchers are now exploring other possible applications for the material, and say it could have potential as a phase change energy storage insulation material, catalytic carrier or efficient composite.

Author
Laura Hopperton

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