back to article New lightest-ever material: Ideal power for electric car

A light-absorbing midnight-black substance dubbed Aerographite has stolen the crown for the lightest material in the world, weighing just 0.2mg per cubic centimetre. And because of its special properties, it's a serious contender to build lithium-ion batteries small and light enough to power the electronic bikes and cars of the …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Absorbs light rays completely...

    jpg or it didn't happen.

    1. Darryl

      Re: Absorbs light rays completely...

      Here ya go:

      Damn... it was there a minute ago

      1. JDX Gold badge

        Re: Absorbs light rays completely...

        Um it would just be black. Not going to make a great photo :)

        What about other properties such as stress/strain/etc?

        1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Absorbs light rays completely...

          Thatsthejoke.jpg

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: Absorbs light rays completely...

            Not really. In real life it WOULD look odd because you could walk around it and it would always just be a 'hole'... whereas in photos it wouldn't look odd. e.g. the Douglas Adams references...

  2. Richard Scratcher
    Thumb Up

    Light just falls into it.....

    http://www.isciencetimes.com/data/images/full/2012/07/18/2339-aerographite.jpg

    1. Haku

      Re: Light just falls into it.....

      It's like those aliens in "Attack The Block".

    2. Sceptic Tank
      Coat

      Re: Light just falls into it.....

      Is this the "dark matter" everybody has been looking for? Not much to look at...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Light just falls into it.....

      Thanks - now we know what the makkuro kurosuke in Kiki's Delivery Service are made from

      1. Haku

        Re: Kiki's Delivery Service

        And the soot balls in Spirited Away (which is where I took my username from)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kiki's Delivery Service

          Not to mention Totoro - Ghibli fans unite

    4. jai

      Re: Light just falls into it.....

      AARrrggghhhh it's sucking the light right out of my eyes!!!!!

  3. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

    Sir

    Can it absorb shorter wavelengths do you think?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sir

      Why, are you going to be blacking-up on the beach this summer? ;)

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: Sir

        Summer?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sir

          Or you could lightly coat black cats with it and train them to run around army barracks at night quietly at top speed, you know, as a test of character ;)

  4. Mike Moyle Silver badge

    Absorbs light...

    ...how is it with other wavelengths of EM radiation? I suspect that a non-reflective, radar-absorbent coating that doesn't add a lot of weight to an aircraft could be useful to some folks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Absorbs light...

      I'd doubt it would even make it to the publishing house before the blacker than black helicopters swooped in on that one. ;)

  5. Steve May 1
    WTF?

    Lightnessness?

    "75 times lighter" And what. pray tellis the Reg unit of lightness? The nanoPachyderm?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Lightnessness?

      If lightness is the reciprocal of weight, then probably the Notwen ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lightnessness?

      Really - lightness is a property of an object: "her iPad was lighter than her Bulgarian Airbags".

      What we are looking for here is density. I would propose the Reg adopt the MPS as the measure of density - one MPS (Member of Parliament Skull) is the density of the cranium of an average Member of Parliament. (Us US types can use the CCS - CongressCritter Skull. (Un-)Fortunately, they seem to be identical to the MPS).

      This material would therefor be approximately one nanoMPS in density.

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: Lightnessness?

        This material would therefor be approximately one nanoMPS in density.

        I believe you're significantly underestimating the MPS. I think you'll find this material would be less than 1 picoMPS in density.

        1. LaeMing Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Lightnessness?

          An MPS is, like, black hold dense. That is why any sensible things that enter an MPS will end up over the event horizon and never be able to return to our universe.

      2. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Lightnessness?

        Depends how you class density.

        Density in mass per volume* or dense in how thick#?

        I'd say average MPS is more* or less# than CCS, seem to be similar levels for most but we have a few good MPs and they have a few thick CCs.

        I think the US would agree

        1. relpy

          Re: Lightnessness?

          Is this proof that vacuum is infinitely dense.

          1. annodomini2

            Re: Lightnessness?

            Depends if you farted!

  6. ItsNotMe

    Maybe...but...

    ...if the batteries made from this stuff, which may be used in a car, can't be FULLY recharged in under 10 minutes...and give a range of AT LEAST 650km...then who cares?

    Until that is possible, electric vehicles will only be a fad.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe...but...

      650km and 10 minute recharge time, OR... 1500km and 6 hours recharge time. That would be enough range that you could drive all day, and let it recharge overnight. That would mean you'd only be recharging at about double the rate you discharged, which is much more reasonable. That way, not only could you support in-city running around, but longer driving trips as well.

      1500km (900 miles or thereabouts) is about the limit of what can be driven on the US Interstates in one day (unless you are doing tag-team driving). That would allow you to drive all day, and if (h|m)otels had charging facilities, charge overnight while you slept. I'd guess the numbers would be roughly the same for Europe - you might have higher speeds on the Autobahn, but I'd guess you wouldn't want to put in a 12 hour day either.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Coat

        Re: Maybe...but...

        "....you could drive all day, and let it recharge overnight."

        Or, if you are Roy Orbison, you can let it recharge during the day.

        Joking aside, the 10 minute recharge time might just be achievable in the not too distant future. Batteries with an energy density that'll produce an electric car having 1500km range and still somewhere to sit people inside it are rather less likely.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          How about some 10**-3 A batteries

          you know the ones you take out when they're flat and put in new ones?

          Could cause problems if you have a camper van and try swap your chem-loo container for one though....

          I can imagine it now, mind: Is that the 10**-3 A for a 2013 renault or the 2013 ford or if its an iCar you have to go to an apple garage where exactly the same replacement battery costs twice as much....

      2. jai

        Re: Maybe...but...

        that'd make the film Vanishing Point a whole lot less interesting if he had to stop and sleep while he waited for the batteries to recharge.

      3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Maybe...but...

        1500km (900 miles or thereabouts) is about the limit of what can be driven on the US Interstates in one day

        I've done far too many one-day drives that came perilously close to, if not exceeded, your 1500km limit - here in the US, on Interstates - to find that an acceptable range, personally. In the past couple of months I drove from the Boston area to mid-Michigan, with a couple of detours to take care of some errands and pick up a passenger; that was very nearly 1500km according to Google Maps; and I drove from mid-Michigan to eastern Oklahoma, which came in at 1450km or so.

        And those aren't the longest one-day drives in terms of hours behind the wheel that I've ever done, either, thanks to the rise in US speed limits over the past 20 years. Back when 55mph was still the rule in many states, I did one 18-hour drive, by myself, overnight; these days that would have pushed me well over 1500km.

        I wouldn't take a pure-electric vehicle if its range was much under 2000km. Otherwise it's too close for comfort. And my guess is quoted ranges are generally under pretty favorable conditions; if you're loaded down with luggage, or climbing through the mountains, or plowing through snow, or stuck in traffic, that range will be significantly reduced.

        Though frankly I don't see the appeal of EVs in the first place. Give me a small, efficient internal-combustion car that has a reasonable power/weight ratio, not one of the grossly overpowered monstrosities customers apparently insist on these days. I avoid driving whenever possible anyway. And I keep most of my vehicles for 10 years or more anyway, so I'm already saving in manufacturing energy a hell of a lot more than I'd save by going electric.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Maybe...but...

      ..if the batteries made from this stuff, which may be used in a car, can't be FULLY recharged in under 10 minutes...and give a range of AT LEAST 650km...then who cares?

      Until that is possible, electric vehicles will only be a fad.

      ----

      Why? Electric cars don't need to replace everyone's use of a car to be practical. Not everyone needs a car meeting your "must be as good as a gasoline car" specs, particularly multiple car households. An electric car that had a lower TCO than a gasoline car would attract a lot of buyers even if it had shortcomings like a range of only 250km or taking over an hour to recharge, because these buyers would never or almost never run into these shortcomings in their usage of that car. The thing keeping most people from buying electric cars today is as much the cost as the range.

      This is the same flawed logic people used to claim that the iPad would be a failure, because it could never do everything a PC could do. It couldn't, and still can't, and never will, but for people who most surf the web, read email and watch videos it is a superior solution compared to a traditional PC. Hence sales of iPad and other tablets growing quickly, and PC sales growth flattening to zero and risking potential downturn in the near future.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Maybe...but...

        I'll empatically concur with this comment. My son has been confined to bed for 2 years now. His Ipad has been 100% effective in meeting his computing needs throughout this period - many hours per day, every day. While it doesn't meet all my needs (and so is not an acceptable solution for me), for my son it is so good that he needs not to look anywhere else.

      2. JeffinLondon

        Re: Maybe...but...

        I agree electric cars do not have to match petrol cars in range, but over time they do have to match them in cost / TCO to become mass market products.

        At the moment the EV cars on the market are way too short of range and too long on cost to be useful to anyone but those well off enough to drive around in a fashion statement.

    3. Neil Charles

      Re: Maybe...but...

      Why is it always assumed that you have to recharge car batteries? Why not drive onto a garage forecourt and your flat battery can be swapped for a fresh one? The garage charges up the old one at their leisure and somebody else inherits it.

      Yes it would be difficult, but is it really so much harder than extracting black goop from deep underground, piping it for miles, refining it, transporting the refined goop to petrol stations and then pumping it into cars? Batteries are big and heavy so you'd need machinery to swap them, but seriously, why not?

      If petrol had never existed and we'd only just invented electric powered cars, there'd be some serious work going on to create that infrastructure, guaranteed.

      1. JeffinLondon

        Re: Maybe...but...

        One data point. The new Ford Focus EV (price $30,000, range 76 miles) sports a 650lb / 200kilo battery pack.

        One would need a fancy piece of industrial kit to extract such a thing and replace it with another. Not to mention that the design of every EV would need to be near identical to each other for this scheme to work.

        Very impractical.

        1. Neil Charles

          Re: Maybe...but...

          Impractical yes, but so is petrol.

          My point was not so much that we should do it right now, as that it "could" be done. You'd definitely need a battery standard. I like 15' long AAs myself.

          Seriously, as batteries get lighter and smaller it could happen. They don't need 30 second recharge times, if they're small and light enough to be swapped.

        2. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Maybe...but...

          One would need a fancy piece of industrial kit to extract such a thing and replace it with another. Not to mention that the design of every EV would need to be near identical to each other for this scheme to work.

          ----

          Obviously there would need to be some standards, but who says all the batteries have to come in one giant pack? What's wrong with a standard of say 20 kg battery packs, and cars can have however many they want, and they'd typically be discharged in a semi-serial fashion so if you go to the station before you're running on "E" you don't need them all replaced. You could even carry a couple spares in your trunk in case you get caught out in an area where there aren't recharging stations - something which could happen in the early years of such a standard.

          This wouldn't require the location of the batteries to be standardized, only the form factor and the way they plug into the car. They could and would be in different locations for different cars. Having them plug in all around the bottom of the car would make a lot of sense, makes for easy removal and lowers the CoG nicely.

      2. annodomini2
        Thumb Down

        Re: Maybe...but...

        @Neil Charles,

        The main issue would be standards, Cars, Vans, Trucks etc are all different shapes and sizes.

        If the batteries are not standardised then different manufacturers will have different batteries, these change over centre's will need massive warehouses and stocks of batteries to meet all the different requirements.

        Manufacturers won't like the standards as they will be limited in what they can do with the cars.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Maybe...but...

          The main problems with swappable batteries are the storage requirements and the size of the power feed to each station to deliver the required power. A warehouse and power station every 30 miles along each motorway isn't going to go down well with the locals.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe...but...

      Only a fad, eh? Like fossil fuels, maybe?

      1. James Hughes 1

        Charge time

        Is probably more dependent on the ampage of your supply than the battery. Not many houses could support the current required for a 10 minutes charge of a high capacity battery. And as for garages, get more than a couple of cars in and you need a big connection to the grid.

  7. Neil Lewis
    Joke

    So many uses...

    ...reminds one of string.

    1. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: So many uses...

      Do you mean SIMPSON'S INDIVIDUAL WATER ABSORB-A-TEX STRINGETTES!

      That was the first thing I thought of when I read all the things this stuff was going to be good for.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: reminds one of string.

      Is that your own theory?

  8. Matthew Glubb
    Meh

    Hotblack

    This is probably what Hotblack Desiato's stuntship was made of.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      Dammit! I was going to do the Douglas Adams reference

      Missed it by this much - Don Adams will have to do instead.

    2. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Hotblack

      Er, Hagunemnon battle-cruisers.....surely?

  9. Volker Hett
    Coat

    At last

    Desaster Areas Stuntship paint!

    Mines the one with the towel in the pocket.

  10. tomban

    this matter is so light that ten thousand pounds of it weighs just one pound

  11. Herby Silver badge
    Joke

    Lightweight??

    I thought that Upsadasium was the lightest material. Of course the government has confiscated all of it. The last it was heard of was back in the 60's

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Battery technology?

    Process sounds a trifle expensive for carbon battery parts, for similar effort you could do something in Silicon and get much better capacity.

  13. De Facto

    Germans will save us?

    If that is true, we are saved and free from dirty oil! Sounds too good to be true.

    1. Dave the Cat
      Stop

      Re: Germans will save us?

      I wouldn't go burning your petrol/diesel powered car just yet, few more years of development required first. Then there's the ever so small matter of where the electricity to recharge your car will come from.... It's high time we (as a race) started seriously funding nuclear fusion research. That's the get out of jail free card that humanity's looking for....

      1. Alan Johnson

        Re: Germans will save us?

        We are funding fusion research but fission works very well and is well established and much safer than fossil fuels and renewables.

        1. Dave the Cat
          Thumb Up

          Re: Germans will save us?

          Hi Alan,

          Agreed, I was thinking more long term with Fusion, Fission is fine for now. It's high time we started funding fusion research seriously though, the UK spends more on ringtones each year than it does on fusion research....

  14. Hand1e
    Paris Hilton

    Why doesn't it float?

    At 200g/m^3 it is considerably lighter than air (about 1kg/m^3)

    1. Badvok

      Re: Why doesn't it float?

      Because it is filled with air, so you have 200g/m^3 + 1kg/m^3.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why doesn't it float?

        Yes, but it must displace air, and if it's 5 times lighter it should float. Take care changing those batteries...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why doesn't it float?

          Duh yeah, sorry i'm the one who's dense, its true density is not 0.2mg/cm3, that's the density of the stucture that the nanotubes make up, the material itself is much denser than air.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stupid Grammer Query

    Could someone please clarify what the phrase "75 times lighter" actually means?

    If we consider a particular type of styrofoam has a density of 80mg/cc then to me "75 times lighter" implies that this new substance must have a density of 80 - 80*75 = -5.92g/cc which is clearly nonsense.

    FYI, styrofoam comes in many forms with densities in the range of 30mg/cc to 120mg/cc so is not a particularly good base for comparison anyway.

    1. Richard Scratcher
      Headmaster

      Re: Stupid Grandma Query

      Remember - twice as light = half as heavy and twice as heavy = half as light.

  16. Rhua
    Pint

    1/6 density of air?

    Those hover boards from Back to the Future are just around the corner!

  17. Harvey Trowell
    Black Helicopters

    It's like...

    How much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

    1. bobbles31

      Re: It's like...

      I can't wait to get my custom nissan leaf with black dials and black switches with little black lights that light up black to let you know that you have done something.

  18. sebacoustic
    Happy

    Zinc oxide again

    >The boffins heated the zinc oxide up to 900°C

    Indeed, where would we be without it!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAJ4XVmI4dc

  19. squigbobble
    Coat

    What about a proper use for it

    Liking building a realistic looking monolith sculpture.

  20. Ian Johnston
    Boffin

    Is this really what matters?

    Is the weight of the electrodes inside the batteries a major pinch point for the development of electric car? In a Tesla Roadster, for example, the battery pack weighs 1000lb and the whole car is 4000lb.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Is this really what matters?

      It's the surface are for weight/volume. This stuff is so porous it has an vast surface area for the electrical reaction to take place on - and it's conductive so you can get the electric out

      It wouldn't matter if it was 10x heavier, but the same area of copper plates would be enormously heavy

  21. Inachu
    IT Angle

    I am sure some idiot will turn this into a cleaning substance then a new reg article now will s how the word is now infected with tiny nano tubes in our bodies and blood stream and there will be no effective way to clean that kind of mess up.

    Mr. Clean where are you when we will need you?

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