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Technology
This Is The World’s Lightest Substance & It’s Amazing
April 9, 2013
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graphene-aerosol-flower.jpg
Photo: Zhejiang University

Talk about keeping things light: Scientists at Zhejiang University in China have created the world's lightest substance. It's called graphene aerogel, and it's 7-and-a-half times less dense than air.

It's so light, in fact, that it can sit on the petals of a flower or a blade of grass without causing any damage.

Guiness World Records has certified the new substance, created by a team led by professor Gao Chao, as the lightest in the world.

At 0.16 milligrams per cubic centimetre, it knocks off the former champion, aerographite, which weighed in at 0.18 milligrams.

But the value of graphene aerogel goes beyond how light it is - it's also very absorbent.

The scientists say it can suck in up to 900 times its own weight in oil, and tends to pick up only oil, not water - making it a potentially excellent material to clean up spills.

And apparently, once the work is done both the graphene aerogel and the oil can be recycled.

graphene-aerosol-team.jpg
Photo: Zhejiang University

As for how the material was designed, PhD candidate Sun Haiyan told Zhejiang University News that graphene aerogel is constructed with a lot of space inside it:

"It's somewhat like large space structures such as big stadiums, with steel bars as supports and high strength film as walls to achieve both lightness and strength," she said. Because of its solid construction, it's very resilient, and tends to bounce back to its original shape after being compressed.

Apparently, the team is still exploring other uses for the material, and it might show up in electronics at some point. So, if your next smartphone weighs less than air, you heard about the technology here first.

Via BBC

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