Scientists at China's Zhejiang University developed the world's lightest solid material, which bears the anglicized name Carbon Aerogel. It features a density of just 0.16 mg/cm³, which beats the 0.18 mg/cm³ German scientists achieved in 2012, with the chemically similar Graphite Aerogel.
An aerogel is a solid material made when a semi-solid gel is dried and its solvent medium removed. What remains, is a solid substance with countless air-filled pores, and strands of carbon. Professor Gao Chao of the university, and his team, freeze-dried a gel of carbon nanotubules and graphene, to remove moisture, and retain integrity. "Carbon aerogel is similar to carbon sponge in structure. When an aerogel of the size of a mug is put on Setaria, the slender grass will not bend," Gao Chao said in a statement.
Don't be fooled by its fragile appearance, Carbon Aerogel is tested to be extremely elastic, and is found to have a gargantuan per-volume oil absorption capacity. A chunk of the substance can absorb 900 times its own weight.
Practical applications of Carbon Aerogel, hence, could fall in the realm of pollution control, where it could be used in air/water filtration, and cleaning up oil-spills. It could also have potential applications in energy storage insulation, catalytic carrier, and sound-absorption.