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You can now 3D print one of the world’s lightest materials – Quartz

by • February 28, 2016 • No Comments

Aerogels are one of the world’s lightest materials. Graphene aerogel, a record holder in that category, is so light that a sizeable block of it wouldn’t make a dent on a small ball of cotton. Water is of one thousand times additional dense. The minimal density of aerogels allows for for a number of possible applications, researchers have discovered, ranging of soaking up oil spills to “invisibility” cloaks.
Now, scientists of State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo report in the journal Compact that they have discovered a way to 3D print graphene aerogel, that has only been utilized in lab prototypes. This innovation can make the material much simpler to use, and open it, and hopefully other aerogel materials, up to wider applications.
Graphene is only a single layer of carbon atoms. Since it was isolated for the initially time in 2004, it has been toutedas a wonder material for its durablity, pliability and conductivity. Aerogel is fundamentally a gel where the liquid is replaced by air. Graphene aerogel is known to be highly compressible (so it can bear pressure without breaking apart) and highly conductive (so itcan carry electricity efficiently). The quite structure of the material that gives it these properties, yet, makes it complex to make via 3D printing innovation.
Typically, to 3D print aerogel, the core material is mixed with other ingredients, such as a polymer, so that it can be pushed out via inkjet printing devices. Once the structure is turn it intod, the polymer is removed by a chemical system. In the case of graphene aerogel, yet, doing this destroys its delicate structure.

SUNY Buffalo researchers came up with a solution. They mixed graphene oxide—graphene with extra oxygen atoms—with water and deposited layers on a surface at -25°C. This automatically froze at any timey layer, and allowed the undisrupted construction of the aerogel, with ice as its assist.

Once this system was accomplished, the ice was removed via liquid nitrogen in a “freeze drying” technique. This expelled the water without damaging the microstructure. The material was and so heated to remove oxygen atoms, that left only graphene in the aerogel. The resulting solid had densities ranging of 0.5 kg per cubic meter to 10 kg per cubic meter. The lightest aerogel at any time generated is of 0.16 kg per cubic meter (compared to 1,000 kg per cubic meter for water).
3D printing of materials is becoming crucial for translating innovation into industrial applications. 3D printing devices turn it into objects in the precise shape and form as needed, that helps with rapid prototyping and adoption of new technologies. For instance, 3D printing has helped the aerospace industry to innovate additional rapidly on new models but in addition create parts for old models that are no longer being maked.
SUNY Buffalo researchers are now looking to expand their 3D printing innovation to create other types of aerogels.


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