German scientists and researchers at Kiel University and the Hamburg University of Technology have created the lightest material in the world. The scientists are calling this lightweight material “aerographite.” It weighs a reported 0.2 milligrams. This makes aerographite 5,000 times less dense than water and six times lighter than air. It is so light that scientists need to work with it in a special laboratory that controls airflow for fear of the flimsy material blowing away in the wind. German researcher Matthias Mecklenburg says about the material:
If you wanted to have one kilogram of this material it would be five cubic meters large. That means a one square meter base, which goes five meters up in the air like a house or tower – that would be one kilogram.
Aerographite is made up of a mesh of carbon tubes that are about 15nm in diameter. The carbon tubes are interwoven with each other, and for its small size, it has a large surface area in relation to its weight and mass.
Although the material is the lightest in the world, it’s also strong in relation to its size. It has the strength of Styrofoam but at 75 times less than its mass. It’s also extremely resilient for being so compact. If you were to compress aerographite, it would bounce back to its natural state with little to no damage.
‘It is able to be compressed up to 95% and be pulled back to its original form without any damage,’ said Professor Rainer Adelung of Kiel University. ‘Up to a certain point, the Aerographite will become even more solid and therefore stronger than before. Also, the newly constructed material absorbs light rays almost completely. One could say it creates the blackest black.’
Aerographite is created using zinc oxide crystals in special ovens that heat up to 900 degrees Celsius. The aerographite will be used for waterproofing and creating smaller lithium-ion batteries for lighter computers, air and water filtration systems, and protective shielding for satellites.