Graphene aerogel takes world’s lightest material crown
Not even a year after it claimed the title of the world’s lightest material, aerographite has been knocked off its crown by a new aerogel made from graphene. Created by a research team from China’s Zhejiang University in the Department of Polymer Science and Engineering lab headed by Professor Gao Chao, the ultra-light aerogel has a density lower than that of helium and just twice that of hydrogen.
Although first created in 1931 by American scientist and chemical engineer, Samuel Stephens Kistler, aerogels have recently become a hotly contested area of scientific research. A “multiwalled carbon nanotube (MCNT) aerogel” dubbed “frozen smoke” with a density of 4 mg/cm3 lost its world’s lightest material title in 2011 to a micro-lattice material with a density of 0.9 mg/cm3. Less than a year later, aerographite claimed the crown with its density of 0.18 mg/cm3.
Now a new title-holder has been crowned, with the graphene aerogel created by Gao and his team boasting a density of just 0.16 mg/cm3. To create the record-setting material, Gao and his team turned to the wonder material du jour – graphene. Building on experience in developing macroscopic graphene materials, including one-dimensional graphene fibers and two-dimensional graphene films, the team decided to add another dimension and make a three-dimensional porous material out of graphene in an attempt to claim the record.
Instead of the sol-gel method and template-oriented methods generally used to create aerogels, Gao and his team used a new freeze-drying method that involved freeze-drying solutions of carbon nanotubes and graphene to create a carbon sponge that can be arbitrarily adjusted to any shape.
“With no need for templates, its size only depends on that of the container,” said Prof. Gao. “Bigger container can help produce the aerogel in bigger size, even to thousands of cubic centimeters or larger.”
The result is a material the team claims is very strong and extremely elastic, bouncing back after being compressed. It can also absorb up to 900 times its own weight in oil and do so quickly, with one gram of aerogel able to absorb up to 68.8 grams of organics per second – making it attractive for mopping up oil spills at sea.
“Maybe one day when oil spill occurs, we can scatter them on the sea and absorb the oil quickly,” said Gao. “Due to its elasticity, both the oil absorbed and the aerogel can be recycled.”
The researchers are examining other possible applications and say it also has potential as a phase change energy storage insulation material, catalytic carrier or efficient composite.
The graphene aerogel is detailed in a paper published in the journal Nature.
Source: Zhejiang University via Graphene-Info.com
Please keep comments to less than 150 words. No abusive material or spam will be published.
Now, when will the practical benefits of these types of materials actually be seen?
I'm all for the advancement of knowledge through all varieties of research but at some point things like this need to show some form of practicality for the simple reason that, whether it be through government grants/subsidies or through corporate grants/subsidies the people end up paying for something that is of no use to them.
Case in point, 82 years of research into aero gels with no appreciable benefit, other than someone being able to claim the "lightest material" title from time to time.
Another tax ranter, oh dear. Case in point will be that China will overtake all of us "smart-tax-fox" infested western countries in coming decades because instead of whining about every penny of taxes, they just do stuff.
"Stuff" being: Renewable energy. High speed rail. Excellence in education at all levels. Space exploration.
And we? We are leaning back and pointing fingers at their coal fired power plants and human right abuses until suddenly, even all that magically disappears there, and oups: We'll have coal fired power plants and human rights abuses. Things are on the move...