The material could be used to absorb polluting substances, such as oil.
In China the lightest material on Earth has recently been invented. Its weight makes it so light that it can be sustained by a blade of grass or a stalk of a flower. It’s an aerogel that has the form of a paper sheet and has the width of a carbon atom. Thanks to its characteristic shape, the material can take on many forms and dimensions. Also, it has the remarkable capability of absorbing liquid substances up to 900 times its weight.
These findings can have important consequences, since the material could be used to absorb polluting substances, such as oil. It can indeed absorb 69 g oil per second. This result is even better than what NASA expected: these carbon sheets have a density of 0.16 g/cm^3, while NASA could produce ultra-light polymers with a density of 0.24 g/cm^3.
Although all the possible uses of such an extraordinary material have yet to be discovered, let’s hope that it could be used to safeguard our eco-systems.
Sun H, Xu Z, & Gao C (2013). Multifunctional, ultra-flyweight, synergistically assembled carbon aerogels. Advanced materials (Deerfield Beach, Fla.), 25 (18), 2554-60 PMID: 23418099