Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have created low-density aerogels made from carbon nanotubes, CNTs, that are capable of supporting 8,000 times their own weight.
The new material also combines the strength and ultra-light, heat-insulating properties of aerogels with the electrical conductivity of nanotubes. Aerogels are novel, semi-transparent, low-density materials created by replacing the liquid component of a gel with gas and are normally constructed from silicon dioxide or other organic polymers. They are currently used as ultra-light structural materials, radiation detectors and thermal insulators. The team also maintained control of the density, microscopic structure and shape of the CNT aerogels. The addition of polyvinyl alcohol created a more even dispersion of CNT throughout the aerogel, adding strength.