A group of Chinese scientists has developed the lightest substance so far- carbon aerogel - with a density only 1/6th of that of the air. Zhejiang University researchers have produced the solid material with a density of 0.16 mg/cc, breaking the record of the lightest material held by graphite aerogel.
The graphite aerogel with a density of 0.18 mg/cc was developed by German scientists last year. Aerogel is a material produced with semi-solid gel dried and solvent removed. It appears as a solid with internal pores filled with air, and thus it's of minimal density.
The research team freeze-dried solutions of carbon nanotubes and graphene to remove moisture and retain integrity. Despite its fragile looks, carbon aerogel has excellent elasticity. It can bounce back when compressed. Besides, it's a material with a big oil absorption capacity. Carbon aerogel can absorb oil up to 900 times its own weight.
Carbon aerogel can play an important role in pollution control such as oil spill control, water purification and even air purification. In addition, carbon aerogel can be an ideal material for energy storage insulation, catalytic carrier and sound-absorption.