It has been produced by a team of scientists from the Chinese University of Zhejiang have managed to produce the new substance: a discovery that experts place amongst the most important of modern science, and whose applications will be numerous.
Experts in Beijing claim that this sponge-like material, made up from layers of graphene oxide and nanotubes of freeze-dried carbon, will be of great use in the manufacture of transistors, solar cells and supercapacitors, as well as in pollution control, just for starters.
They explained that this sponge of freeze-dried carbon nanotubes and layers of graphene oxide, from which oxygen is extracted through a chemical process, has a density of 0.16 milligrams per centimeter cubed; so light that it does not harm the petals of a flower when placed upon them.
The new material produced by the Zhenjiang scientists, in the Chinese province of Hangzhou, displaces aerographite, which, with a density of 0.2 milligrams per centimetre cubed, was previously the most advanced of manmade superlight materials.
Aerographite was developed by German scientists on the base of porous carbon tubes, producing a material of great resistance.
All these investigations and results began from a discovery by scientists from the British University of Manchester, who won a Nobel Prize in 2010 for their experiments with graphene or graphite (a component of graphene).
The Dutch and Anglo-Russian scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, were rewarded for their experiments on a new two-dimensional material (graphene) with unique properties and numerous potential applications.
Since then, many of the researchers that have followed them have been researching new ultra-light materials derived from graphene or graphite, including groups in Germany last July, and others in the United States who produced a light material in November, but on a base of nickel.
All these, however, were overtaken by the Chinese scientists, who succeeded in creating a three-dimensional material, as explained in a recent paper published by Gao Chao in the magazine Nature.Among the most important qualities of this new material is its ease of production.
This allows the carbon aerogel, despite its fragile appearance, to have an excellent elasticity and recuperation power when it is compressed.
For the ordinary citizen in China, an important piece of news is that this new material could potentially play an important role in the fight against pollution, because of its high absorption capacity.
In this respect, the research team said that, whilst current products can generally absorb up to 10 times their own mass, this new material can absorb up to 900 times.
This characteristic, plus the fact that 1 gram of the new material can absorb 68.8 grams of organic material per second, turns it into an ideal medium for the treatment of oil spillages in the sea, the purification of water and the routine purification of air.
(Translated by Ollie Phelan – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)