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Aerogel aka … “Solid Blue Smoke”…..

aerogelhand_s“Solid Blue Smoke”….. “Solid Smoke”… “Frozen Smoke”….

For about 20 years now I have been following this most amazing of products. Aerogel first caught my attention while reading up on all the space debris encapsulating the orbital regions of our planet. The theory goes that Aerogel, placed in the path of speeding space debris would at impact, slow the debris down enough to lose orbital speed, and burn up harmlessly upon atmosphere reentry. Particles traveling six times faster than a rifle bullet can be stopped by a block of Aerogel.

The Stardust spacecraft used Aerogel to capture dust particles from the tail of Comet Wild 2. The dust was moving very fast – about 21,960 kilometers (13,650 miles) per hour – as it zoomed by Stardust. Aerogel is so light and fluffy that it was able to stop and capture dust grains without destroying them, returning to Earth with a rich collection of samples. It was also used on the Mars Pathfinder rover.

It looks like a hologram. A highly porous solid material, Aerogel is lighter than any solid known to man. One thousand times less dense than glass. Nicknamed “solid blue smoke”, “solid smoke”, and/or “frozen smoke”. Despite weighing only 3 milligrams per cubic centimeter, a block the size of a human weighs less than a pound, yet Aerogel can support up to 4,000 times its own weight, and is 99.8% air. Aerogel is made by high temperature and pressure-critical-point drying of a gel composed of colloidal silica structural units filled with solvents.

aerogelcrayons_sSome types of Aerogel provide 39 times more insulation than fiberglass. Along with with being an extraordinary insulator, it is exceptional at sound proofing. Aerogel is also being tested for future bombproof housing and armor for military vehicles. In the laboratory, a metal plate coated in 6mm of aerogel was left almost unscathed by a direct dynamite blast.

The most exciting and near term ground application, however, is the contribution of Aerogel on a per weight basis as the strongest, lightest and only transparent building material. The material’s specifications are the stuff of science fiction. Weighing as little as 3 times that of air. Because of its amazing insulating properties, an inch-thick slab can safely shield the human hand from the heat of a blowtorch. A sugar-cubed size portion of the material has the internal surface area of a basketball court. As the only known transparent insulator, the excellent thermal properties, and transparent nature of silica aerogel make it an obvious choice for super-insulating windows, skylights, solar collector covers, and specialty windows. aerogel-heat

This exotic substance has the lowest density and is the lightest solid known to mankind, yet it can withstand the highest of temperatures. Aerogel was first made in 1931 by Samuel S. Kistler, who obtained several patents for making a variety of Aerogel, including silica, alumina, chromia, tin and carbon.

Now for it’s green credentials. Aerogel is described by scientists as the “ultimate sponge”, with millions of tiny pores on its surface making it ideal for absorbing pollutants in water. A new version of aerogel has been designed to mop up lead and mercury from water. Other versions are designed to absorb oil spills. Nanogel, a branded Aerogel made of modified, water-repellent silica, soaked up oil faster and in greater quantities than other materials that are typically used in wastewater filtration, according to a study. Aerogel attracts oil, toluene and other organic compounds that end up in wastewater from industrial plants. Its potential as a cleaning product comes from its properties of adsorption (as molecules stick to the Aerogel’s surface) and absorption (as its pores suck molecules into the gel’s interior). Aerogel has enormous surface area and can hold up to seven times its weight.

A great insulator AND a pollution vaccum, I knew I loved this stuff !

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5 Responses to “Aerogel aka … “Solid Blue Smoke”…..”

  1. Says:

    Aerogel aka … “Solid Blue Smoke”….. | Forced Green…

    One thousand times less dense than glass. Nicknamed “solid blue smoke”, “solid smoke”, and/or “frozen smoke”….

  2. Wind Says:

    It’s soundproof? Can I use it on my teenagers bedrooms doors? I think I love the stuff too!?!


  3. Linda Says:

    Hi Wind … You betcha! but I would not just do the doors! I would surround the whole room!

  4. wilson Says:

    How remarkable this aerogel is, Linda! Look at that, it won’t melt, even it was being burned on the Bunsen burner!

    wilsons last blog post..My Nephew’s Tooth Pain Story!

  5. Linda Says:

    Hi Wilson …. Aerogel is some pretty cool stuff and does not melt!

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