Feeds

New lightest-ever material: Ideal power for electric car

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

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
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.