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Exclusive News Sci-Tech

Carbon aerogel is now world’s lightest substance

Beijing, Apr 4 (): Chinese scientists have created the world’s lightest substance – carbon aerogel – a material so light that it can settle on the petals of a delicate flower without crushing it. The material has a density of only one-sixth of that of the air.

Carbon aerogel was produced by the scientists at Zhejiang University which has a density of only 0.16 mg/cubic centimetre, breaking the previous record of the world’s lightest material held by graphite aerogel.

The graphite aerogel has a density of 0.18 mg/cubic centimetre and was developed last year by German scientists. Carbon aerogel is 12 percent lighter than the graphite aerogel.

The team led by Professor Gao Chao freeze-dried solutions of carbon nanotubes and graphene to remove moisture and retain integrity. The professor said in a statement that carbon aerogel is similar to carbon sponge in structure. When an aerogel of the size of a mug is put on Setaria, the slender grass will not bend. Despite its fragile appearance, carbon aerogel is excellent in elasticity. It can bounce back when compressed.

Dr. Gao said that this durable and highly elastic carbon aerogel could prove extremely useful in advance electronics and can be a big player in pollution control. Apart from pollution control, this world’s lightest substance is expected to become an ideal material catalytic carrier, sound-absorption and for energy storage insulation.

Carbon aerogel is one of the materials with biggest oil absorption capacity. Current oil absorbing products can usually absorb organic solvent of about 10 times their own weight. He added, carbon aerogel can absorb up to 900 times its weight in liquid.

The team started the process of making carbon aerogel with a semi-solid gel of carbon nanotubes and graphene and then used a freeze-drying process to convert it to a solid. When compared to the making of earlier-generation ultra-light materials, carbon aerogel is “quite easy to make,” said Gao.