German engineers create world’s lightest material

Earlier this month, scientists from Kiel University and the Hamburg University of Technology announced that their collaborative efforts had culminated in the manufacturing of the world's lightest-ever substance.

Known as Aerographite, the material weighs a substantial amount less than a nanotube, which, like the new matter, is produced in a laboratory. However, Aerographite, unlike the nickel-based nanotube, is created primarily from treated zinc oxide, resulting in a lighter weight. Additionally, the German engineers were able to create pores in the surface of the material, further decreasing its mass.

"Think of the Aerographite as an ivy-web, which winds itself around a tree. And then take away the tree," Professor Rainer Adelung, one of the researchers for the project, was quoted as saying by European industry news source The Register.

The process involved crystallizing the zinc oxide by heating the material up to 900 degrees celsius. Researchers warped the substance into a pill-shaped form, placed it inside a chemical reactor and began to remove the zinc compounds from within the crystallized matter, creating the pores.

Scientists associated with the project told the source that the material, which can withstand heightened pressures that nanotubes are incapable of holding up against, may one day be used in commercial aerospace or technological industries.

For example, Aerographite is conducive, which may enable it to be used to manufacture battery components in electric cars. Its light mass would reduce the weight of the car, which could cut down on the energy consumption of the vehicle. Water purification is another potential field that may benefit from the new material, as its porous nature could act as a filter to absorb pollutants or debris.