Carbon nanofoam is an allotrope of carbon discovered in 1997 by Andrei V. Rode and co-workers at the Australian National University in Canberra. It consists of a cluster-assembly of carbon atoms strung together in a loose three-dimensional web. The material is extremely light, with a density of 2–10 mg/cm3 (0.0012 lb/ft3). A gallon of nanofoam weighs about a quarter of an ounce.
Each cluster is about 6 nanometers wide and consists of about 4000 carbon atoms linked in graphite-like sheets that are given negative curvature by the inclusion of heptagons among the regular hexagonal pattern. This is the opposite of what happens in the case of buckminsterfullerenes, in which carbon sheets are given positive curvature by the inclusion of pentagons.
The large-scale structure of carbon nanofoam is similar to that of an aerogel, but with 1% of the density of previously produced carbon aerogels—or only a few times the density of air at sea level. Unlike carbon aerogels, carbon nanofoam is a poor electrical conductor. The nanofoam contains numerous unpaired electrons, which Rode and colleagues propose is due to carbon atoms with only three bonds that are found at topological and bonding defects. This gives rise to what is perhaps carbon nanofoam's most unusual feature: it is attracted to magnets, and below −183 °C can itself be made magnetic.
- Rode, A.V.; Hyde, S.T.; Gamaly, E.G.; Elliman, R.G.; McKenzie, D.R.; Bulcock, S. (1999). "Structural analysis of a carbon foam formed by high pulse-rate laser ablation". Applied Physics A: Materials Science & Processing. 69 (7): S755–S758. doi:10.1007/s003390051522.
- Zani, A.; Dellasega, D.; Russo, V.; Passoni, M. "Ultra-low density carbon foams produced by pulsed laser deposition". Carbon. 56: 358–365. doi:10.1016/j.carbon.2013.01.029.
- Kenneth Chang (April 6, 2004). "A Flaky New Carbon: It's Feather Light and Magnetic". The New York Times.