Credit: TUHH, Karl Schulte.

(Editor’s note: Eileen and I are traveling and preparing for the International Ceramics Congress that begins this weekend, so we had to put our normal writing on hold for a little bit. In place of our usual posts, we are bringing you a variety of good stories and videos issued prepared by various institutions. Look for our regular blog posts to return this weekend, including live blogging from ICC4.)

Hamburg University of Technology and the University of Kiel – It is the lightest material in the world, it can crumple up like a sponge and is also electrically conductive. Professor Karl Schulte and Matthew Mecklenburg from the Technical University of Hamburg, and professors Rainer Adelung and Lorenz Kienle and Arnim Schuchardt of the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel have jointly developed this super material. Their research results on published in Advanced Materials published as the cover story.

The three dimensional network of porous carbon tubes has been “aerographite.” The advanced material has an extremely low density of only 0.2 milligrams per cubic centimeter. Unlike, say, the ultralightweight but fragile aerogels, the aerographite is extremely stable. “The new material consists of 99.99 percent air,” says Schulte.

Random or targeted search results? “We were looking for three-dimensionally cross-linked carbon structures, and we discovered this material,” says Schulte from the Institute for Composite Materials. The research material belongs to the group of scientists who conduct research in the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft at the TUHH-led Collaborative Research Centre.

Despite its low density, the hierarchical design leads to remarkable mechanical, electrical, and optical properties. The first experiments with Aerographite electrodes confirm its applicability.