Canadian Manufacturing

German scientists develop lighter-than-air material

Aerographite weights only 0.2-milligrams per cubic centimetre, is 75-times lighter than Styrofoam



Kiel, Germany—Researchers at Kiel University (KU) in northern Germany have invented a lighter-than-air material that may be used in lithium-ion battery production.

Aerographite, made up of a network of porous carbon tubes that is three-dimensionally interwoven at both nano and micro levels, is now considered the lightest material in the world.

It weights only 0.2-milligrams per cubic centimetre, according to scientists at KU and Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), and is therefore 75-times lighter than Styrofoam but still very strong.

The scientific results were published in scientific journal Advanced Materials July 3, 2012.

The jet-black Aerographite remains stable, is electrically conductive, ductile and non-transparent.

With these unique properties and its very low density, the carbon-made material outperforms all similar materials, KU said in a release.

“Our work is causing great discussions in the scientific community,” TUHH Ph.D. student and co-author Matthias Mecklenburg said in a statment. “The hitherto lightest material of the world, a nickel material that was presented to the public about six months ago, is also constructed of tiny tubes, only nickel has a higher atomic mass than carbon.”

Aerographite weighs four times less than world-record-holder up to now, according to Mecklenburg.

Despite its low weight, researchers claim Aerographite is highly resilient.

While lightweight materials normally withstand compression but not tension, Aerographite features both: an excellent compression and tension load.

It is able to be compressed up to 95 percent and be pulled back to its original form without any damage.

Researchers describe the material as ivy-web which has wound itself around a tree—with the tree removed.

Due to its unique material characteristics, Aerographite could fit onto the electrodes of Li-ion batteries used in electric cars or bikes.

In that case, only a minimal amount of battery electrolyte would be necessary, which then would lead to a reduction in the battery’s weight.

According to the scientists, the material could also be used to enhance electrical conductivity of synthetic materials.

Non-conductive plastic could be transformed without causing it to gain weight, according to researchers.

Statics, which occur to most people daily, could hence be avoided.

Aerographite could also be used in electronics for aviation and satellites or as an aid in water purification.

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