At first glance, this wispy apparition looks like a ghostly owl, or perhaps the handiwork of a drunken spider. What you’re really looking at, though, is a close-up of the world’s lightest material: aerographite. Because this material conducts electricity, it might one day be used in ultra-lightweight batteries to power your electronic car or e-bike.
Aerographite is a 3D network of hollow carbon tubes that weighs only 0.2 milligrams per cubic centimetre. To put this into perspective, a chunky one-metre-cube block of the material would weigh about as much as an orange.
Recently created by researchers at the Hamburg University of Technology and the University of Kiel, aerographite can be compressed by up to 95 per cent without sustaining any damage. This resilience means that it might also find a use in future satellites or aircraft, which have to endure vigorous vibrations.
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