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A Lighter-Than-Air Building Material

A Lighter-Than-Air Building Material
Courtesy TUHH

This summer, as Olympic athletes go faster, higher, and stronger in London, a record has fallen in a lab in Hamburg: Scientists have created the world’s lightest material. The new carbon nanomaterial, called Aerographite, weighs 0.2 milligrams per cubic centimeter. That’s less than a quarter the weight of the last record-holder, a nickel-phosphorous microlattice created by American researchers last year. And it’s six times lighter than air.

Nanotechnology researchers have been working with carbon nanotubes for years (as the name suggests, these are very, very small tubes made of carbon atoms), building everything from superlight bicycles to medical implants. What the German team (from the University of Hamburg and the University of Kiel) figured out was how to build a network of branching nanotubules, thereby making the material stronger and a better conductor of electricity—two qualities that make it much more widely useful in electronics. The unprecedented lightness was an unexpected bonus.

Courtesy TUHH