You can now 3D print the world's lightest material - graphene aerogel
By Bec Crew

It’s 7.5 times lighter than air, and a cubic metre of the stuff weighs just 160 grams. It’s 12 percent lighter than the second lightest material in the world -aerographite - and you can balance a few cubic centimetres of the stuff on a dandelion head. Water is about 1,000 times as dense.

Yep, graphene aerogel is about as cool as it gets. And while silica aerogel (pictured above) is the most commonly used and studied type of aerogel, as of 2013, graphene aerogel has held the record of being the lightest material on Earth. And producing it is about to get a whole lot easier, because scientists have just figured out how to 3D print it.

Nicknamed ‘frozen smoke’, aerogel looks like a gas - and certainly has the weight and density of a gas - but is actually a solid, and an incredibly flexible, conductive, compressible, and absorbent one at that.

Its strange and entirely unique properties have scientists exploring its potential in everything from invisibility cloaks to environmental clean-up - just 1 gram of aerogel can absorb up to 900 times its own weight in materials such as oil - so a cheap, efficient way of producing it is key to accelerating the process.

Now, scientists from the State University of New York and Kansas State University describe how they’ve managed to produce it using a 3D printing technique that ensures that the whole process is automated, and every piece comes out uniform and perfect.

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Lightest Material Ever Created?

National Geographic comes through with better (read: layman) descriptions of the groundbreaking material that I posted about previously.

Jet black and highly porous, a piece of Aerographite almost completely absorbs the beam from a green laser in a 2012 picture.

The new champion in the “lightest in the world” category, the carbon-based material is the recent creation of a team of scientists from Germany's University of Kiel and Hamburg University of Technology.

“Even very thin specimens of Aerographite are fully opaque for the eye,” said Hamburg’s Matthias Mecklenburg.

Unlike a sponge, which would “leak” or “glow” any light aimed at it, Aerographite is “not a bit transparent,” he said.

But, he added, our hands would hardly register its “fluffy,” spongelike surface, because the innovative material is practically weightless.

Electrically conductive and lighter than the previous titleholder—a nickel-based material introduced earlier this year—Aerographite has promising applications in the engineering of batteries and water-purification systems, as well as in biotechnology.
Aerographite - The World's Lightest Material

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Last year, scientists developed the lightest substance in the world. At .2 mg/cm^3, it is 4 times lighter than the previous record holder and is actually 6 times lighter than air. Apparently the only reason it doesn’t float is because it’s “soaked” in air like a sponge.  

Another amazing property it has is its ability to withstand high compression. It can compressed to a 30th of its size, and re-expand without any damage. It is also conductive, ductile, super-hydrophobic,  and jet black in color. 

Uses can incude:

-lighter batteries
-wearable computing
New lighter-than-air material may be Holy Grail for batteries

From The Toronto Star:

German scientists have almost accidently created the world’s lightest material.

A cubic centimetre of aerographite weighs just two ten-thousandths of a gram, six times lighter than air and 75 times lighter than Styrofoam.

“You can hold it,” Dr. Rainer Adelung told the Star. “Although it has almost no gravity.”