Scientists invented a type of lightweight material called 'aerogel' back in the 1930s that was well ahead of its time. More recently, NASA refined the process and created a material suitable for catching space dust aboard the Mars rover. This amazing material is made of 99.8% air, weighs 1,000 times less than glass, and is strong enough to survive extreme heat and heavy impacts. Nicknamed 'Frozen Smoke' because of its translucent appearance, the material is made by removing the liquid component of the gel and replacing it with a gas.
Up until 2011, researchers had been successful making aerogels out of a variety of materials to different degrees of success. Now aerogels are even lighter and stronger however, as scientists have finally succeeded in creating one made of carbon nanotubes. This new material weighs in at an astonishingly tiny 4mg/cm^3. These 'multiwalled carbon nanotube' (MWCNT) materials are also excellent conductors of electricity and are very flexible when combined with plastic materials.
It may only be a short amount of time before we see frozen smoke appearing in practical applications in electronics and other manufacturing processes. Mainly though, I just want to be able to lift a giant, car-sized block of it with one hand.
- Justin Hannah, ChaCha Games and SciTech