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Aspen Aerogel

Aerogel is advanced nanoporous material which was first created experimentally by Steven Kistler in 1931, however it was brought to light when this material was used in jackets and suits made for the NASA astronauts.

Aerogel is the least dense solid substance known and the lightest per cubic meter; it is made of 99.8% air and of .2% silicon dioxide (silica) which is the main component of glass. Aerogel is 1,000 time less dense than glass. It withstands very high temperatures and it’s an excellent thermal insulator.

Silica Aerogel is produced by dehydrating a gel, which is composed of colloidal silica, under extreme pressure and temperature. More specifically, the process begins by mixing ethanol with a precursor Si(OR) 4 (Silicon alkoxide) which gives rise to the formation of a silica gel (sol-gel). Then, by means of a process called supercritical drying, the alcohol is removed from the gel. This is typically carried out using acetone, which solubilizes the ethanol and then both substances are removed from the supercritical CO 2.

Silica Aerogel is the most common type of aerogel and it is also the most researched and utilized. It is a substance made of silica and it is obtained using silica gel. The recently discovered solid material with less density, is a silica nano-foam with a density of 1mg/cm 3, which is a lighter version of aerogel that has a density of 1,9 mg/cm 3. In comparison, the density of air is 1,2 mg/cm 3. Silica aerogel is a strong absorber of infrared radiation. By taking advantage of this feature it is possible to make material that allows sunlight to enter buildings whilst ensuring thermal insulation. It has extremely low thermal conductivity (0.03 W / mK to 0.004 W / mK), which gives it excellent thermal insulating properties.