As more advances are discovered, who are the lightest of the light?
Over the past few years the science community has been abuzz about the potential of graphene. One main reason, it is really light. But things are always evolving when it comes to research and development of materials that weigh hardly anything. So the question is, who are the heavy-hitters in the world of light materials?
5 – Aggregated Diamond Nanorods: You still have to respect diamonds. They’re not as fancy was some of the new materials out there but they are still extremely strong and light weight. Other things to keep in mind about diamonds, they are made of the widely available element of carbon, they offer nearly complete thermal conductivity, and have among the highest melting and boiling points of all materials. Don’t forget that graphene!
4 – Metamaterials: The invisibility cloak has long been something fantasized about by sci-fi fans and invested in by certain military contractors. The concept is based on the idea that materials with negative electromagnetic properties could reflect light back at its source. A rough way of explaining how this type of material could render something invisible to the naked eye. One key factor, they can also be very light.
3 – Carbon Nanotubes: 300 times stronger than steel, this material is often referred to as capable “building a space elevator.” As strange as it is to imagine an elevator ride up to the International Space Station, it does indicate that as skyscrapers get taller, Carbon Nanotubes with bonds stronger than those diamonds have, will be the key to getting further and further into the sky.
2 – Metallic Microlattice: In 2011 researchers in California announced the creation of one of the lightest materials in the world, comprised of 99.99 percent air, with a density of 0.9 milligram per cubic centimeter. Potentially useful as a shock absorber for vehicles, its thickness is actually 1/1000th that of water.
1 – Graphene Aerogel: Announced this month as the new champion of the light materials, these Chinese innovation is being hailed as a revolutionary absorbent for use in oil spilled or other industrial situations. According to its developers it is “derived from a gel that has its liquid components replaced with gas. It appears solid, but weights hardly anything and is extremely absorbent.” It now owns several world records when it comes to insulation, density, and strength. My favorite potential use that observers mention for Aerogel – building a space dome on the moon.
Photo: Cle0patra / Flickr