A team of German scientists from the Technical University of Hamburg and University of Kiel has developed a new carbon-nanotube-based material called Aerographite that’s the lightest material in the world. It’s density is only 0.2mg per cubic centimeter. To put that into perspective: styrofoam is 75 times denser.
Aerographite is made of mostly air–99.99 percent, to be exact–along with carbon nanotubes. The scientists created the material by growing an interlinking chain of carbon nanotubes onto a zinc oxide template:
To create the material, researchers started with a zinc oxide in powder form and heated it up to 900 degrees Celsius, which transformed it into a crystalline form. From this material the scientists made a kind of pill. In it, the zinc-oxide formed micro and nano structues, called tetrapods. These interweave and construct a stable entity of particles that form the porous pill. The tetrapods produced the network that is the basis for Aerographite. In a next step, the pill is positioned into the reactor for chemical vapour deposition at TUHH and heated up to 760 degrees Celsius.
The lightest material I’ve ever held is aerogel, which I described in this post. By comparison, aerographite is at least ten times less dense than aerogel.