Graphene Sponges: The New Lightest Material on the Planet

At this point, it'd be more of a surprise if graphene wasn't an integral part of a mind-bending, record-setting new technology. But, of course, it is. Again. Enter the lightest material in the world: graphene aerogel.

Aerogel is nothing new. All made primarily of air, different flavors of aerogel have been one-upping each other for the title of lightest for years now. The previous record holder was aerographite with a density of 0.18 mg/cm3, and now researchers at China's Zhejiang University have made some aerographene, which takes the crown with a density of 0.16 mg/cm3.

Building chunks of the almost-but-not-quite weightless material involves some high-tech freeze drying that can yield graphene sponges of arbitrary size. Professor Gao Chao, the research team's leader, says the process can easily be scaled up to an order of meters. And aside from being less dense than helium—an acheivement in and of itself—aerographene is extremely resilient and can mop up 900 times its weight in oil, making it potentially indispensable as a clean-up sponge.

The sponges may not be as immediately useful as say, terabit-down graphene antennas, but if/when there's another awful oil-spill, aerographene will be worth far more than its weight in awesomeness. Tack it on to the ever-growing list of graphene craziness. Some sort of graphene immortality can't be that far off, right? [Zhejiang University via Gizmag]