Could the lightest solid on Earth be the future of battery power?
Graphene aerogel is officially the lightest solid material on the planet.
A super-light, elastic and absorptive substance, aerogel’s characteristics could enable the creation of lighter, higher-energy-density batteries.
Weighing just 0.16 milligrams per cubic centimetre, graphene aerogel is the result of microscopic graphene research at Zhejiang University in China.
The synthetic, porous material is created from a solution of graphene oxide and carbon nanotubes which are poured into a mould and freeze-dried. Residual oxygen is then chemically removed.
The freeze-drying process is unique to aerogel and is what makes the substance 12% lighter than the previous lightest solid record holder, aerographite.
By freeze-drying graphene oxide and carbon nanotube solution, the substance is dehydrated to single-atom-thick layers of graphene, supported by carbon nanotubes. The end result is the ultralight aerogel substance which also has super elastic and absorption properties.
Researchers behind aerogel claim the substance can recover completely after 90% compression and absorb up to 900 times its own weight in oil, at a rate of 68.8 grams per second. Features which make aerogel stand out as a highly effective material for mopping up oil spills. The conductivity of the graphene-based substance could also enable the creation of lighter, higher-energy-density batteries, a particularly interesting concept for the future development on battery electric, fuel cell electric and hybrid cars.
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