Aerogel – Frozen Smoke

Aerogel, also known as “frozen smoke” because of it’s vaporous, translucent appearance, is actually a rigid, dry and porous solid. The first aerogel was made in 1931 by Samuel Kistler, using a supercritical fluid drying process to extract the liquid component of a gel, leaving a solid matrix of silica that is highly porous and has an extremely low density. Aerogels have also been made from aluminum, chromium, tin and carbon. Aerogels are now being made from carbon nanotubes, suggesting applications in electronics.

Frozen Smoke: Scientists discuss implications of Aerogel Research – [nasa.gov]

Updated: June 27, 1997

Your household windows may one day have a whole new look – one that saves energy and money – but you won’t be able to see it. NASA scientists from the Space Sciences Laboratory at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. led by Dr. Arlon Hunt, are experimenting in space with a fascinating material called Aerogel.

Aerogel is the lightest solid material known – only three times the density of air – and has tremendous insulating capability. However, when made on the ground, it has a hazy or smoky appearance. NASA scientists are experimenting with Aerogel in space and believe that they may be able to learn how to make the foam-like material transparent. A host of new products may result for insulating windows that conserve energy and save money, by lowering heating and cooling costs.

The Pioneer: Samuel Kistler – [lbl.gov]

* At Elevated Pressures: The life and science of Samuel S. Kistler
* From the High Desert: Sam Kistler’s personal story
* Always an Educator: A professor during four decades
* The Early Days of Aerogels: The enigmatic discovery of our favorite material
* From the Softest Materials to the Hardest: Kistler’s career changes course
* Kistler Speaks: Excerpts from his many non-technical writings
* Epilogue
* Kistler’s Publications
* Kistler’s Patents

New Ultralight Multiwalled Carbon Nanotube Aerogels – [aerogel.org]

Researchers lead by Dr. Lei Zhai at the University of Central Florida have fabricated a multiwalled carbon nanotube (MWNT) aerogel with an astonishing density of just four milligrams per cubic centimeter!

The work was recently published in ACS Nano and you can view the full manuscript here.

This material is particularly interesting because it is composed of a dispersion of MWNTs which leave a honeycomb structure with controllable porosity. More-so, the aerogel has a large surface area and conducts electricity very well, but is a thermal insulator. This is an ideal characteristic for electronics.

QUEST Lab: Aerogel – KQED QUEST – [youtube.com]

It looks like frozen smoke. And it’s the lightest solid material on the planet. Aerogel insulates space suits, makes tennis rackets stronger and could be used one day to clean up oil spills. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Alex Gash shows us some remarkable properties of this truly unique substance.

New ‘frozen smoke’ material: One ounce could carpet three football fields – [physorg.com]

Scientists are reporting the development of a new, ultra-light form of “frozen smoke” — renowned as the world’s lightest solid material — with amazing strength and an incredibly large surface area.

The new so-called “multiwalled carbon nanotube (MCNT) aerogel” could be used in sensors to detect pollutants and toxic substances, chemical reactors, and electronics components. A report about the material appears in ACS Nano.

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