Carbon aerogel sets new record as world's lightest substance
New York: Chinese scientists have created the world's lightest substance - a material so insubstantial that it can perch on the petals of a delicate flower without crushing them.
A cubic centimeter of the record-setting stuff, carbon aerogel, has a mass of only 0.16 milligram, according to a new study by scientists at Zhejiang University.
That's 12 percent lighter than an equal volume of the previous record-holder, a substance known as aerographite.
If the average human body were made entirely of carbon aerogel instead of flesh and bone, it would weigh only a quarter-pound.
Lightweight substances can have some pretty heavy-duty applications, and that certainly seems to be the case here.
Durable and highly elastic, carbon aerogel may become a useful material in advanced electronics and a big player in pollution control, study co-author Dr. Chao Gao, a professor of polymer science and engineering at the university, told the Huffington Post in an email.
Carbon aerogel can absorb up to 900 times its weight in liquid, he said.
Dr. Gao's team started with a semi-solid gel of carbon nanotubes and graphene and then used a freeze-drying process to convert it to a solid.
Unlike earlier-generation ultralight materials, this new substance is "quite easy to make," according to Gao.
The study was published online in February in Advanced Materials.