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"Frozen smoke" next wonder product? (update)
Posted by: McQ on Monday, August 20, 2007



Ok this is cool:
A MIRACLE material for the 21st century could protect your home against bomb blasts, mop up oil spillages and even help man to fly to Mars.

Aerogel, one of the world’s lightest solids, can withstand a direct blast of 1kg of dynamite and protect against heat from a blowtorch at more than 1,300C.

Scientists are working to discover new applications for the substance, ranging from the next generation of tennis rackets to super-insulated space suits for a manned mission to Mars.
Here's a bit of a kick ... the substance was invented in the 1930s on a bet, but because the original version was so brittle, it was abandoned.
Mercouri Kanatzidis, a chemistry professor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, said: “It is an amazing material. It has the lowest density of any product known to man, yet at the same time it can do so much. I can see aerogel being used for everything from filtering polluted water to insulating against extreme temperatures and even for jewellery.”

Aerogel is nicknamed “frozen smoke” and is made by extracting water from a silica gel, then replacing it with gas such as carbon dioxide. The result is a substance that is capable of insulating against extreme temperatures and of absorbing pollutants such as crude oil.
Hmmm ... there has to be a body armor application in there. And a whole lot of other uses when insulation and weight are factors.
It was not until a decade ago that Nasa started taking an interest in the substance and putting it to a more practical use.

In 1999 the space agency fitted its Stardust space probe with a mitt packed full of aerogel to catch the dust from a comet’s tail. It returned with a rich collection of samples last year.

In 2002 Aspen Aerogel, a company created by Nasa, produced a stronger and more flexible version of the gel. It is now being used to develop an insulated lining in space suits for the first manned mission to Mars, scheduled for 2018.

Mark Krajewski, a senior scientist at the company, believes that an 18mm layer of aerogel will be sufficient to protect astronauts from temperatures as low as -130C. “It is the greatest insulator we’ve ever seen,” he said.

Aerogel is also being tested for future bombproof housing and armour for military vehicles. In the laboratory, a metal plate coated in 6mm of aerogel was left almost unscathed by a direct dynamite blast.

It also has 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.

Kanatzidis has created a new version of aerogel designed to mop up lead and mercury from water. Other versions are designed to absorb oil spills.

He is optimistic that it could be used to deal with environmental catastrophes such as the Sea Empress spillage in 1996, when 72,000 tons of crude oil were released off the coast of Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire.
This seems to be one of those products, if it lives up to this hype, which could have a huge and positive effect on our lives. Already there are some commercial applications:
Aerogel is also being used for everyday applications. Dunlop, the sports equipment company, has developed a range of squash and tennis rackets strengthened with aerogel, which are said to deliver more power.

Earlier this year Bob Stoker, 66, from Nottingham, became the first Briton to have his property insulated with aerogel. “The heating has improved significantly. I turned the thermostat down five degrees. It’s been a remarkable transformation,” he said.

Mountain climbers are also converts. Last year Anne Parmenter, a British mountaineer, climbed Everest using boots that had aerogel insoles, as well as sleeping bags padded with the material. She said at the time: “The only problem I had was that my feet were too hot, which is a great problem to have as a mountaineer.”
How light is it?
Although aerogel is classed as a solid, 99% of the substance is made up of gas, which gives it a cloudy appearance.

Scientists say that because it has so many millions of pores and ridges, if one cubic centimetre of aerogel were unravelled it would fill an area the size of a football field.

Its nano-sized pores can not only collect pollutants like a sponge but they also act as air pockets.
And is there anything it can't do?
Researchers believe that some versions of aerogel which are made from platinum can be used to speed up the production of hydrogen. As a result, aerogel can be used to make hydrogen-based fuels.
Stand by for the aerogel revolution.

UPDATE: Commenter Robb Allen reminds us this is neither new nor particularly remarkable:
This isn’t a very new substance nor is it remarkable. Both the Democrat and Republican parties take up a considerable amount more space yet have even less density, are better insulators from reality, and are a higher percentage of vapor than Aerogel.
 
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This isn’t a very new substance nor is it remarkable. Both the Democrat and Republican parties take up a considerable amount more space yet have even less density, are better insulators from reality, and are a higher percentage of vapor than Aerogel.

Granted, you wouldn’t want to use either to sleep on or protect you from anything.
 
Written By: Robb Allen
URL: http://blog.robballen.com
Re: the metal plate with the aerogel coating

How’s it work with Kevlar? Maybe a Kevlar/aerogel/kevlar sandwich?
Granted, you wouldn’t want to use either to sleep on or protect you from anything.
I dunno... There must be at least one hot chick in congress...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
LOL!

OK Robb ... that was perfect!
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Herrrrr.....I’m investing in it as a place to dump our surplus carbon dioxide.
Al Gore actually invented this a long time ago with that specific purpose in mind.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I have been waiting for practical uses of this for years, so it is not new to me either.
The lack of effects from a bomb blast is news to me, though.
 
Written By: anomdebus
URL: http://
The lack of effects from a bomb blast is news to me, though.
Well, considering that gasses can be compressed easily (more so than solids or liquids), I’m not shocked that it does well with handling blast energy...
 
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
I dunno. I think that our political parties tend toward infinite density.
 
Written By: dicentra
URL: http://dicentrasgarden.blogspot.com
The only downside I know of with aerogels, currently, is that they’re wicked expensive, still.

 
Written By: Sigivald
URL: http://
It’s the material of the future and has been for thirty years.

If only fusion would get going.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
"I think that our political parties tend toward infinite density."

How odd. Aerogel has substance without density, and politicians have density without substance.


"If only fusion would get going".

That is the energy source of the future, has been for thirty years, and apparently always will be.


.

 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"If only fusion would get going".

That is the energy source of the future, has been for thirty years, and apparently always will be.
Did’ja read the link? Bussard seems to think he’s got it cracked, and I don’t think he is cracked, so...

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://tomdperkins.blogspot.com/
"Did’ja read the link? "

Yep. Deja vu.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
After having aerogel, purge the air with helium; then seal the surface to stop gas exchange. Would the solid ball be less dense than air in standard conditions? Work this question for a 3 cm diameter chuck of aerogel and define the sealing skin of the ball. Could we get the ball to rise up in the air?
 
Written By: Joe Faust
URL: http://joefaust.org

 
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