By Ellen Huber
A (very young looking) Chinese scientist, Professor Gao Chou, has proved he is the man of steel by successfully producing the lightest substance of recorded history: carbon aerogel. Carbon aerogel may feel like nothing at all, but Gao’s research has shown it may be a major part of the solution when it comes to heavy world problems like pollution.
From the official press release:
Scientists at Zhejiang University have developed a kind of ultra-light material called carbon aerogel. This solid material has a density of only 0.16 mg/cubic centimeter, one sixth of that of the air. It’s the world’s lightest material so far.
Carbon aerogel is comprised of granite and carbon nanotubes. The flexible substance can absorb up to 900 times its weight in liquid (which, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is practically nothing).
Carbon aerogel’s extreme sponge-like quality, and the fact that it is 99% free space, can make it a definite solution in cleaning up oil spills, suggest Gao. When you think about how the Gulf of Mexico is still feeling the effects of the 2010 BP spill, this tiny substance is sure to make a big difference in the future.