Science Note: Aerographite
Air Date: Week of August 10, 2012
Scientists have developed a new material six times lighter than air that can support something 40,000 times its own weight. Researchers hope to exploit these properties to make light-weight batteries for electric cars. Annabelle Ford reports.
FORD: Imagine a material six times lighter than air and 75 times lighter than Styrofoam. It exists. Scientists at Kiel University and Hamburg University Technology have created it, and call it aerographite. Aerographite is the newest, lightest material on earth. It weighs only 0.2 milligrams (CORRECTED-editor) per cubic centimeter, which is four times lighter than the previous record holder.
The key to its composition is a web of tiny carbon tubes but, surprisingly, that only makes up .01 percent of the material. The other 99.9 percent is air. And it turns out that there is a lot of potential for this surprisingly strong material which is electrically conductive and can withstand both compression and tension.
Not only can aerographite be compressed 95 percent, but it can be pulled back to its original form without any damage. This lightweight champion can also hold up something 40,000 times its own weight. Scientists are thinking about applying these properties to green transport technology- more specifically, vehicle batteries.
Because aerographite is both lightweight and electrically conductive, it could be used to create micro-batteries that are much lighter than any battery that currently exists now. This, in turn, would allow electric cars and e-bikes to function more efficiently because of their reduced weight.
The researchers see other potential for aerographite in water filtration and air purification for incubators. And factories that produce plastic can easily produce aerographite in their current facilities, since it's simple to create. It seems that there are a lot of ways to make this lightweight material have a heavy impact. That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Annabelle Ford.
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