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November 12th, 2008

Video of the week – aerogels

Published on November 12th, 2008 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

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This week’s video is actually a three-in-one aerogel feature. Aerogel is wispy, translucent, highly insulating material often described as “solid smoke.” It’s worth noting that aerogel is not a new material and may date back to the 1930s. Many new applications and lower-cost production processes, however, are opening up.

The first part is part of the video is a KQED/Discovery Channel short with the basics on aerogels. The second focuses on some of the applications for the material, including flexible insulating blankets, from Aspen Aerogels. The final part of the video focuses on an offshoot of aerogel – SEAgel – that is an even lighter material and made from agar.

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20 Responses to Video of the week – aerogels

  1. Chuck Mercer says:

    I was watching the science channel and concern was made from our defense dept. looking for matl. that was light, to be used in their miniature aircraft. Couldn’t this be used to adapt to their situation?
    By the way, You’re doing fantastic work! Its fascinating to this old run of the mill inventor. Keep ahead of the game!

  2. Anil Majmudar says:

    Try out as a “fill” for Wind turbine blades. They are normally a little less than 300
    Ft. in length.

  3. Zach M says:

    This is very very cool.

    That last one was made from agar, which is derived from seaweed. It is a carbohydrate material not silicon, so it is pretty much harmless.

    The other stuff though, if exposed, it would probably break down in a glassy substance or into a powder and could potentially be harmful. It’s fibrous nature makes me think of asbestos and how it’s issue was the extremely fine fibers. Though this would be safer because the fibers follow an amorphous pattern rather than a straight rigid pattern.

    I wish they explained the structure of the flexible stuff, I’m wondering how it was made that way.

  4. H Mullis says:

    Way Cool: Perhaps I could get a nice overcoat and gloves made from this stuff, it would eliminate a lot of weight!

  5. MClark says:

    At least some hazards of silica are fairly well known. In dust form it can cause a lung disease called silicosis, leading to fibrosis, but probably not cancer. This article (http://www.dllr.state.md.us/labor/silica.htm) provides a short brief. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is harmful in the gel form. But what happens when it starts to break down?

    I am of the mindset that breathing any type of dust or vapor, including wool dust, in significant amounts will lead to some type of respiratory problem. By the way Mr. Mulholland, silica is a natural substance, it is not man made but released through processing just like wool dust. And the point that something is accepted as low risk by some government agency or industry experts isn’t worth a hill of beans. Haven’t we learned that yet. I love people of science, everything is a fact until it isn’t.

    I love technology but I’m smart enough to keep my distance. Unfortunately the decision makers who run the businesses that will ultimately make and use this stuff will likely never be exposed to the potential hazards, only the low paid labor who have to process it.

    I do know this about silica, it killed hundreds of Chinese (I believe) miners in West Virginia when released during the digging of a tunnel for a hydro plant (Hawks Nest) near Kanawha, on the Kanawha River.

  6. alvin.dixon says:

    can it be used the space shuttle main booster tank?

  7. Very interestng prroduct.
    We are in South Africa. Do you have Dist’s here?
    Could your product be used in a corona discharge ozone producing generator?
    Please visit our web site.
    Could it be used as a pool blanket?
    John Rawlings

  8. Don Bartlett says:

    Would like to know much more , Cost, availibility and interested in Australia wide distributorship

  9. Bob Beauchemin says:

    I can see a future for this product in composites, could be used instead of foam , balsa and nomex honeycomb to make a stong & light carbon fiber composite.

  10. Ashok K. says:

    I am very much impressed. I wonder whether it can be used in Steel Industry such as Rolling Mills and Continuous Casters.

  11. Dan Harkins says:

    One of the national labs has done some work with this material and it was some nasty stuff to work with. So much so that I was told by a researcher there that they will not work with it again unless it is encapsulated. Do not know if it related or not, but that researcher is currently dying of cancer.

    Suggest that research is completed and Material Safety data Sheets issued on it in its different forms before anyone gets excited about using it. I get itchy just thinking about it.

  12. Gareth Dolby says:

    Place your order at LIT Industries, Inc. http://www.litnc.com/aspen.html

  13. Andres Abello says:

    It’s amazing. Why up to now find out of their existence and their possible uses. What issue is coming? I hope that I can buy it in the shop near to my home.

  14. Gareth Dolby says:

    What will the cost be when it hits the consumer market? Please, don’t set your quote per pound. I want a positive $ number. How much for a cubic yard, like concrete? And when?

  15. Stratis Stavropoulos says:

    I think it will be the best innovation in contruction for the years to come. does anyone know where can someone find it?

  16. Wow, what is the capacity of permeability for this product?

  17. George Fetters says:

    How cheaply can this material be produced? This has tremendous potential for green housing.

  18. Truly impressive, keep up the good work. And as a point Evelyn Valentine, Silica gel is accepted as a low risk pesticide which acts by dessicating insects. Silicone gel from Breast Implants has been associated with some risks but is a very different substance. Wool is a clear high risk substance
    if you follow this link.
    I feel we should applaud the work done, not wish somebody had started from a completely different place to produce a different answer. It is worth remembering that Napalm uses a palm oil derivative. Natural doesn’t always lead to nice.

  19. evelyn Valentine says:

    Dear Sirs, I have heard that silica gel is very bad for human usage. Why then are they making blankets from it? Why don’t we improve wool which is healthy?

  20. FAIZ ABBAS says:

    Excellent demonstration of state of Art technology in ceramics engineering

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