Feeds

New lightest-ever material: Ideal power for electric car

Pitch-black Aerographite could juice batteries of the future-ture-ture

New hybrid storage solutions

A light-absorbing midnight-black substance dubbed Aerographite has stolen the crown for the lightest material in the world, weighing just 0.2mg per cubic centimetre. And because of its special properties, it's a serious contender to build lithium-ion batteries small and light enough to power the electronic bikes and cars of the future.

Boffins in Germany constructed the new material by weaving together a network of porous carbon tubes at nano and micro level to create the stuff that is 75 times lighter than Styrofoam.

"Think of the Aerographite as an ivy-web, which winds itself around a tree. And then take away the tree," said Prof Rainer Adelung of Kiel Uni.

The previous record-holder for lightest-ever stuff was also made of nanotubes – but those weren't porous, and were made of nickel rather than carbon, which made the material heavier. “The hitherto lightest material of the world, a nickel material that was presented to the public about six months ago, is also constructed of tiny tubes. Only, nickel has a higher atomic mass than carbon. Also, we are able to produce tubes with porous walls. That makes them extremely light," said co-author Arnim Schuchard, a PhD student at Kiel University.

Adelung and other researchers from Kiel Uni and the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) worked together to make the substance using a powdered zinc oxide.

The boffins heated the zinc oxide up to 900°C to transform it into a crystalline structure. From that stuff, the scientists made a kind of pill, inside which the zinc oxide had formed micro and nano structures called tetrapods... so the "pill" is actually porous.

The pill was then stuffed into a reactor for chemical vapour deposition and cooked up to 760°C to lay on a few coats of graphite.

"In a streaming gas atmosphere that is enriched with carbon, the zinc oxide is being equipped with a graphite coating of only a few atomic layers," Schuchard explained, "This forms the tangled-web structures of the Aerographite. Simultaneously, hydrogen is introduced. It reacts with the oxygen in the zinc oxide and results in the emission of steam and zinc gas.

"The faster we get the zinc out, the more porous the tube's walls get and the lighter the material. There is considerable scope."

The stuff the boffins end up absorbs light rays almost completely so it is jet-black, it stays stable and is conductive and ductile. The aerographite is also resilient, withstanding both compression and tension.

The researchers reckon that these characteristics mean the new material could fit into the electrodes of lithium-ion batteries, which could in turn be used in electronic cars or bikes.

Aerographite also has potential for use in aviation and satellite construction because materials used need to be able to put up with a lot of vibration. The stuff could even be used in water purification, where it may act as an absorbent for pollutants. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.