New carbon nanotube struructure aerographite is lightest material champ

Jul 13, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Overview of different Aerographite morphologies by controlled derivations of synthesis. Image from Adv. Mater., 24: 3486-3490.

(Phys.org) -- Despite having a reputation for valuing intellectual prowess over physical abilities, scientists are nonetheless just as competitive as anyone else. Evidence of it exists in various fields of science as suggested by the assorted prizes that are awarded for those who achieve firsts in their particular realm of research. Also always popular are virtual contests to see who can create the smallest thing, or the largest, on in the case of aerographite, the lightest. This latest champion has been produced by a team of researchers at the University of Kiel in Germany. It’s based on carbon nanotubes and is being heralded as the lightest solid ever created.

Previous champions, aerogel, and then metallic microlattice were praised in their day for not just being the lightest stuff around, but for being strong for its size as well. Aerographite beats them both in both categories. Not only is it less dense (0.2 milligrams per cubic centimeter compared to 0.9) but it’s stronger too, able to support over 40,000 times its own weight. And since it’s actually mostly air (99.99%) it can be crumpled down to almost nothing if need be because it will spring back to its originally shape without prodding. Because the new champion is four times lighter than the previous champ, researchers will be busy looking for applications for it. The current hope is that because it’s a good conductor of electricity, it can be used as an electrode in new kinds of batteries or perhaps in supercapacitors.

The researchers created the new material by implementing a new kind of single-step CVD synthesis process based on freely adjustable networks using zinc oxide as a template, which in essence means, they found a new way to make the graphite grow in ways that develop into very thin strand hollow nanotube structures that hold together to form a new kind of material.

Interestingly, the team says that if enough of the material were made to allow it to be seen by the naked eye, which they say they can do, it would appear as a black clump of sponge-like material. They also note that they didn’t start out trying to invent a new material but found it came naturally as part of their research into three-dimensionally cross-linked carbon structures.

Explore further: Atom-thick CCD could capture images: Scientists develop two-dimensional, light-sensitive material

More information: Mecklenburg, M., Schuchardt, A., Mishra, Y. K., Kaps, S., Adelung, R., Lotnyk, A., Kienle, L. and Schulte, K. (2012), Aerographite: Ultra Lightweight, Flexible Nanowall, Carbon Microtube Material with Outstanding Mechanical Performance. Adv. Mater., 24: 3486–3490. doi: 10.1002/adma.201200491

Abstract
An ultra lightweight carbon microtube material called Aerographite is synthesized by a novel single-step chemical vapor deposition synthesis based on ZnO networks, which is presently the lightest known material with a density smaller than μg/cm3. Despite its low density, the hierarchical design leads to remarkable mechanical, electrical, and optical properties. The first experiments with Aerographite electrodes confirm its applicability.

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User comments : 9

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tadchem
3 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2012
"struructure"???
dnatwork
5 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2012
It crumples and springs back? Combine this with particles of some other, sheet-forming material (the way seashells or teeth are formed) to define the crumple zones, and you have an ultra-light structural material for a car body that doubles as a battery, maybe with air as the anode.
TrustTheONE
not rated yet Jul 13, 2012
Maybe now we can see more progress in the space elevator arena.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2012
Ha. I am currently reading '2312' a scifi story published this year. The author uses aerogel so he is already passe. So hard to keep up these days.
sirchick
not rated yet Jul 13, 2012
Maybe now we can see more progress in the space elevator arena.


More likely going to see it in racing cars and planes firsts. Given how light it is - saves alot of fuel when ever weight can be removed.

Also im wondering if this could be used as crumple zones on cars to "cushion" the collision and reduce human injury? Would that be a good choice for this material ?
Graeme
not rated yet Jul 14, 2012
Given the density and strength a 1 cubic centimeter piece can support 10 grams, or a force of 100 Pascals. If i could be coated in a skin that could keep out air it would be less dense than air, but the air pressure would crush it. Perhaps instead it could be filled with hydrogen or neon, and then it could float in air.
antialias_physorg
1 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2012
More likely going to see it in racing cars and planes firsts. Given how light it is - saves alot of fuel when ever weight can be removed.

Don't confuse "immense strength compared to weight" with "immense strength". This stuff is awesome, for sure - but to build anything crash worthy out of it you'd have a use an awful lot of it. Yes, your car would be lighter, but it would also fill the entire racetrack.
Kafpauzo
not rated yet Jul 17, 2012
Yes, your car would be lighter, but it would also fill the entire racetrack.


Wow, that would be the perfect racing car, faster than anything, you arrive before you start.
sirchick
not rated yet Jul 25, 2012
More likely going to see it in racing cars and planes firsts. Given how light it is - saves alot of fuel when ever weight can be removed.

Don't confuse "immense strength compared to weight" with "immense strength". This stuff is awesome, for sure - but to build anything crash worthy out of it you'd have a use an awful lot of it. Yes, your car would be lighter, but it would also fill the entire racetrack.


No one could over take you then :P

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