Researchers at two German universities have created a new substance called aerographite, the lightest material ever created. Made primarily of air, aerographite may eventually be used to make ultra-lightweight products, such as batteries for electronics.

The material is made from a network of hollow carbon tubes. “Think of the Aerographite as an ivy-web, which winds itself around a tree. And then take away the tree,” said scientist Rainer Adelung.

A picture of aerographite taken with a scanning electron microscope.

Weighing in at less than 0.2 mg/cm³, aerographite is 75 times lighter than polystyrene foam, and even lighter than air itself. It’s also lighter than aerogel — a material used by NASA that’s 99 percent air, and a material called metallic microlattice, both of which previously held records as the lightest material.

Because of its air-filled design, aerographite is unusually springy; it can be compressed by a factor of 1000 and then return to its original size. Unlike aerogel, it’s able to support weight. It can also conduct electricity, which is why it may be used to create lightweight lithium-ion batteries used in everything from computers to electric cars.

Image credits: Hamburg University of Technology