The Graphene Carbon LatticeEnlarge Photo
Man-made carbon dioxide might be something we're trying to reduce, but on its own, carbon is an abundant and rather useful element.
It's also been central to two of the most important scientific materials discoveries of recent years--graphene, and carbon nanotubes.
The latter involves rolling the former--a one atom thick sheet of carbon atoms--into a cylinder, creating incredibly small but incredibly strong strands of carbon.
A new technology takes those tubes and weaves them into a new, incredibly strong and light substance, known as Aerographite.
Developed at Kiel University in Germany, it's now being described as the lightest material ever created, beating the previous nickel nanotubes. According to The Register, Aerographite is 75 times lighter than the same quantity of a typically light material like styrofoam.
What makes it so light? Partly, the relationship between its size and strength--put simply, you don't need much of the material to do the job you're asking of it. It beats the nickel nanotubes as carbon has a lower mass than nickel, and the tubes themselves can be porous, without losing strength.
Why should I care?
Cutting to the chase, Aerographite is yet another material that could see realistic use in batteries of the future.
Just as graphene has already been considered for batteries, Aerographite is stable and conductive, making it entirely suitable for use in the electrodes found in batteries. The high conductivity--and indeed high resilience--means batteries could be made considerably smaller and lighter without sacrificing performance.
What that means is that the large, heavy, solid objects required to power every electric car can be packaged much more tightly and contribute less to curb weight.
And that, as we've discussed in the past, means better performance, better handling and of course, better range.
If you're keeping track of future battery technologies, that's another one you can add to the list...