New 'frozen smoke' material: One ounce could carpet three football fields

Jan 12, 2011
Image credit: ACS / DOI:10.1021/nn102246a

Scientists are reporting the development of a new, ultra-light form of "frozen smoke" -- renowned as the world's lightest solid material -- with amazing strength and an incredibly large surface area.

The new so-called "multiwalled (MCNT) aerogel" could be used in sensors to detect pollutants and toxic substances, chemical reactors, and electronics components. A report about the material appears in ACS Nano.

Lei Zhai and colleagues explain that made from (the main ingredient in sand) and other material already are used as thermal insulation in windows and buildings, tennis rackets, sponges to clean up oil spills, and other products.

Aerogels are solid but so light that they have been compared to frozen smoke. However, only a few scientists have succeeded in making aerogels from carbon nanotubes, wisps of carbon so small that almost 50,000 would fit across the width of a human hair.

The report describes a process for making MCNT aerogels and tests to determine their properties. MCNT aerogels infused with a plastic material are flexible, for instance, like a spring that can be stretched thousands of times. If the nanotubes in a one-ounce cube were unraveled and placed side-to-side and end-to-end, they would carpet three football fields.

The MCNT aerogels also are excellent conductors of electricity, making them ideal for sensing applications, such as sensing as little as 0.003527 ounce of a material resting in the palm of one hand, the report indicates.

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More information: "Ultralight Multiwalled Carbon Nanotube Aerogel", ACS Nano. DOI: 10.1021/nn102246a

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fmfbrestel
4.6 / 5 (5) Jan 12, 2011
sweet CNT's are key to making aerogels durable enough for many potential applications. Of course it will always come down to cost, and since they dont mention cost, it is probably pretty high right now.
MorituriMax
1 / 5 (4) Jan 12, 2011
Thus our armories move one step closer to the weapons in Gerrold's Chtorr War.
nuge
4.5 / 5 (15) Jan 12, 2011
You guys really need to convert to the metric system. 0.003527 ounces? Try 0.1g
Newbeak
4.7 / 5 (3) Jan 12, 2011
Could you make silicon dioxide aerogel in a hydrogen atmosphere,and form it into wing like shapes enclosed in carbon fibre wings? The result would be an almost buoyant recreational aircraft that the average person could get into the air with pedal power.Just a thought..
Moebius
3 / 5 (2) Jan 12, 2011
Wow, one oz could carpet 3 football fields. So how many materials couldn't?
nuge
5 / 5 (1) Jan 12, 2011
Wow, one oz could carpet 3 football fields. So how many materials couldn't?


I think the significance is that it has a large surface area.
LariAnn
3.5 / 5 (4) Jan 12, 2011
I'd opt for helium rather than hydrogen for my buoyant aircraft, for safety reasons . . .
trekgeek1
4.3 / 5 (7) Jan 12, 2011
I'd opt for helium rather than hydrogen for my buoyant aircraft, for safety reasons . . .


What safety reasons? The Hindenburg used Hydrogen and it........ yeah, Helium's cool I guess.
Newbeak
4.5 / 5 (4) Jan 13, 2011
I'd opt for helium rather than hydrogen for my buoyant aircraft, for safety reasons . . .


What safety reasons? The Hindenburg used Hydrogen and it........ yeah, Helium's cool I guess.

Hydrogen is still better,if only because it is the lightest gas.There would be no sparks to ignite it in a pedal powered aircraft,and anyway,only small amounts of H2 would leak out..
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (3) Jan 13, 2011
I'd opt for helium rather than hydrogen for my buoyant aircraft, for safety reasons . . .


What safety reasons? The Hindenburg used Hydrogen and it........ yeah, Helium's cool I guess.

Hydrogen is still better,if only because it is the lightest gas.There would be no sparks to ignite it in a pedal powered aircraft,and anyway,only small amounts of H2 would leak out..


Unless you build up a static charge from the atmosphere or get struck by lightning.
antialias
5 / 5 (3) Jan 13, 2011
If you get struck by lightning in a pedal-powered ultra-light contraption then it really doesn't matter whether you're on hydrogen or helium. In weather that is prone to static charges or lightning strikes you wouldn't be out, anyways.

But no: while aerogels are pretty strong for their weight they are not strong enough to add much structural integrity to a wing. Today's glider wings are almost hollow already. If you wanted added buoyancy then you could fill these with helium/hydrogen today. Since the volume is rather low the added effect would be negligible (i.e.: it isn't worth it)
alq131
5 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2011
Hydrogen should be used if only because it's a renewable resource...Helium isn't.

just search "Helium Shortage"
From "The Independent" 8/2010
-----
...The experts warn that the world could run out of helium within 25 to 30 years...the world's most commonly used inert gas is being depleted at an astonishing rate because of a law passed in the United States in 1996 which has effectively made helium too cheap to recycle.

The law stipulates that the US National Helium Reserve, which is kept in a disused underground gas field near Amarillo, Texas – by far the biggest store of helium in the world – must all be sold off by 2015, irrespective of the market price.
------
Sad to think that we're wasting it so fast, but maybe it will be the reason we return to space...if we can without the technologies that need Liquid He.
Moebius
not rated yet Jan 13, 2011
I'm thinking that if you put a light gas like helium or hydrogen in anything, including an aerogel, it will act like a balloon and expand it. It could only be applied in a pressure vessel and it would explode like popcorn, without being contained, on exposure to normal air pressure. There would be absolutely no advantage to enclosing it in a wing, or anything else, using a light gas in it.
Arkaleus
4.8 / 5 (5) Jan 13, 2011
Small hydrogen aircraft are fine. Get over the Hindenburg for God's sake. It's cheap, renewable, and has 2 times the buoyancy of He. Small personal balloons powered by pedals are one of the first kinds of aircraft invented. A 13 year old by the name of Cromwell Dixon used one in the early 20th century to cross several states.

The anti-hydrogen phobia is silly when you consider that you pump gasoline into your car every week.
antialias
4.8 / 5 (5) Jan 13, 2011
..especially once you see what happens to a gasoline powered car that has sprung a leak and catches fire compared to a hydrogen powered car

Google(pictures): hydrogen, gasoline, puncture
and look at the first set of pictures

Hydrogen looks _a lot_ safer*

* Though I have to admit that hydrogen is flammable over a wider range of mixtures than gasoline. But on the plus side: it doesn't pool at the site of the accident.
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2011
Couple things, they have already made lighter than air aerogels (and no they dont blow up like a balloon) and it would be a simple matter to apply their techniques to these cnt aerogels.

Secondly, you could probably make the buoyant wing with these cnt aerogels, but it would cost an arm and a leg (and maybe even a kidney). The problem with the old generation of aerogels was that they were very brittle, and would crush easy. These CNT aerogels seem to have to have that solved. However even the old aerogels cost a couple hundred dollars for a square inch of material. These are probably significantly more expensive due to the CNTs.
Ojorf
not rated yet Jan 13, 2011
Moebius, as an engineer you should know that if the pressure inside something is the same as outside it will not blow up like a balloon. The whole point is not to put it under pressure, just because you have a lighter gas inside something and a heavier mix outside will not cause it to suddenly expand and explode.
Bonkers
not rated yet Jan 13, 2011
I would really like to see toy indoor flying machines based on this stuff, you should be able to get a really low Reynolds number thus fly at insect speeds. I guess battery and motor weight would still dominate though.

Does anyone else get irritated by the random folksy definitions? - i mean the interjected "flexible - like a spring that can be streched back and forth many times"?
do non-technical (or simply dim) readers really get this far into the site, and if so, will they continue reading because they spotted something they understand?
- its plain wrong as well in this case, the property described is called "toughness" not flexibility, which is simply the Youngs modulus.
krundoloss
not rated yet Jan 13, 2011
Forget the aircraft idea. What about batteries? The greater the surface areas of the anode and cathode, the more efficient the battery. Carbon nanotubes also conduct electricity, so why not use aerogel to make better batteries? It is the perfect application for an aerogel, which has the highest surface area of any material.
ennui27
not rated yet Jan 13, 2011
Thus our armories move one step closer to the weapons in Gerrold's Chtorr War.


Never mid the armories .... Tom Brady would love it.
trekgeek1
not rated yet Jan 13, 2011
Small hydrogen aircraft are fine. Get over the Hindenburg for God's sake. It's cheap, renewable, and has 2 times the buoyancy of He. Small personal balloons powered by pedals are one of the first kinds of aircraft invented. A 13 year old by the name of Cromwell Dixon used one in the early 20th century to cross several states.

The anti-hydrogen phobia is silly when you consider that you pump gasoline into your car every week.


But the gasoline isn't that flammable in liquid state. Hydrogen gas wrapped in a bubble, millimeters from a nearly inexhaustible source of oxygen is bad.
Moebius
not rated yet Jan 13, 2011
Moebius, as an engineer you should know that if the pressure inside something is the same as outside it will not blow up like a balloon. The whole point is not to put it under pressure, just because you have a lighter gas inside something and a heavier mix outside will not cause it to suddenly expand and explode.


Right, should have thought about that more before firing off that reply. Aerogel won't provide any advantage in a wing which is the point I was trying to make.
fixer
not rated yet Jan 13, 2011
And, of course, don't make the wings out of thermite!
ennui27
not rated yet Jan 15, 2011
Hydrogen should be used if only because it's a renewable resource...Helium isn't.

just search "Helium Shortage"
From "The Independent" 8/2010
-----
...The experts warn that the world could run out of helium within 25 to 30 years...the world's most commonly used inert gas is being depleted at an astonishing rate because of a law passed in the United States in 1996 which has effectively made helium too cheap to recycle.

The law stipulates that the US National Helium Reserve, which is kept in a disused underground gas field near Amarillo, Texas - by far the biggest store of helium in the world - must all be sold off by 2015, irrespective of the market price.
------
Sad to think that we're wasting it so fast, but maybe it will be the reason we return to space...if we can without the technologies that need Liquid He.


Thanks for that alq ..... I wonder how many other things we are running out of but no one realizes.
xznofile
not rated yet Jan 15, 2011
some carpet, all soft & fuzzy at the nanometer scale, my toes swoon w/ delight
brianlmerritt
not rated yet Jan 16, 2011
Forget the aircraft idea. What about batteries? The greater the surface areas of the anode and cathode, the more efficient the battery. Carbon nanotubes also conduct electricity, so why not use aerogel to make better batteries? It is the perfect application for an aerogel, which has the highest surface area of any material.


Note that lead acid batteries use relativity to achieve most of their power (2011-01-car-batteries-powered-relativity from physorg)

A lead - carbon hybrid would probably not support the aircraft mentioned above, but could it provide a new super-efficient battery technology?
jimbo92107
not rated yet Jan 16, 2011
I'd opt for helium rather than hydrogen for my buoyant aircraft, for safety reasons . . .


What safety reasons? The Hindenburg used Hydrogen and it........ yeah, Helium's cool I guess.

Hydrogen is still better,if only because it is the lightest gas.There would be no sparks to ignite it in a pedal powered aircraft,and anyway,only small amounts of H2 would leak out..


Unless you build up a static charge from the atmosphere or get struck by lightning.

Come on guys, the Hindenburg fire was fueled by a coating of rocket fuel on the skin, not by the hydrogen, which quickly escaped into the atmosphere. The Hindenburg video clearly shows the skin burning after the hydrogen has long-since left the scene.
douglas2
not rated yet Jan 16, 2011
with low thermal conductivity typical for these aerogels, and the "excellent conductors of electricity" stated in the article, there is potential for a useful thermoelectric material depending on its seebeck coefficient.
pubwvj
not rated yet Jan 16, 2011
Hydrogen is still better,if only because it is the lightest gas.


Lightning... Zappp! Boom!
derphysiker
not rated yet Jan 17, 2011
Please also note that two thirds survived the Hindenburg disaster, which is much better than most airline crashes...
trantor
not rated yet Jan 17, 2011
really idiotic to have a science website using measures such as OUNCE!
Paljor
not rated yet Jan 17, 2011
Speaking of helium on the moon there are massive deposits of He3. It is clean energy folks. As for the new "frozen smoke" I see it in making steel obsolete in some areas.
resinoth
not rated yet Jan 19, 2011
use as spacecraft re-entry shielding, or as a boat, or for sneakers...
could you make a house out of this?
antialias
not rated yet Jan 19, 2011
As for the new "frozen smoke" I see it in making steel obsolete in some areas.

I think you need to take into account the difference between strength by weight and strength by volume.
resinoth
not rated yet Feb 27, 2011
"...to give you an idea of just how big three football fields really is..."

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