World’s Best Thermal Insulator aerogel is as light as feather, yet Strong enough to Support a Brick.
An unharmed flower placed on a piece of aerogel suspended over a flame on a burner he basic process of building cities and architecture has almost remained the same since, perhaps, always. However the new, innovative materials the world is encountering off-late, are sure to bring a change.
The most-preferred qualities in a ‘perfect’ building material have changed tremendously; of those in demand are stronger, lighter, thinner and eco-friendly substances that could not only build, but also care for the future – the future of sustainability.
While researching for best insulators in the world, Surfaces reporter stumbled upon – Aerogel. Having an ‘almost’ ghostly appearance, Aerogel was first invented as the outcome of a bet Samuel Stephens Kistler had in 1931 with Charles Learned over who could replace the liquid in “jellies” with gas without causing shrinkage. This unique composition gives it a hazy look; which might also be the reason it is often referred to as ‘frozen smoke’.
‘Aerogel’ is not a material having a specific chemical formula. This structure is an extremely porous, solid foam, with high connectivity in-between the molecules.
What is aerogel?
It basically is a synthetic, porous and superlight material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. The result is a solid with extremely low density and low thermal conductivity, which can take many different shapes and forms.
The majority of aerogel is composed of silica, but carbon, iron oxide, organic polymers, semi-conductor nanostructures, gold and copper can also form aerogel. However, within the aerogel structure, very little is solid material, with up to 99.8% of the structure comprises of nothing but air.
Applications Of Aerogel
Though, previously, aerogel was majorly used for low-scale applications in aerospace, (in early 21st century, aerogel was employed in a very special role by Nasa- to capture space dust). Today it is being used for large, building-integrated applications to reduce energy consumption. Depending on their density, aerogels can usually hold a gently applied load of up to 2,000 times their weight and sometimes more, (like the one shown on right, supports a brick). It also has superb absorbing abilities.
Scientists say that it could be the answer to big problems such as oil spills and also be used as a slow drug-delivery system for medical patients. The technology is fairly straight-forward and seems like an obvious choice for building owners and architects looking for a simple solution to cut energy costs by using aerogel insulation. Aerogel is starting to become a must-have material in the insulation industry and has been used for several years in cavity injected wall insulation and insulating boards. The aerogel insulator will certainly have a significant place in future green building materials for architectural, vehicle, aircraft, spacecraft and marine insulation, and create a market potentially worth billions of dollars.
They are good conductive insulators because they are composed almost entirely of gases, which makes them terrible heat conductors. Aerogel has been used for several years in cavity injected wall insulation and insulation boards.
Insulation boards, blankets, plasters, coatings and composites, aerogel is known to achieve previously unattainable thermal performance. These aerogel composites can be used for thermal insulation and passive fire protection of structural elements in buildings.
Benefits of aerogel
Although a little more expensive than some of the other insulation materials, Aerogel is being used more and more for specific applications. Refineries across the globe are realizing the benefits of its industrial insulation. With exceptional thermal performance and superior moisture resistance, Aerogel insulation is the go-to insulation material for improving efficiency and minimising corrosion under insulation. Improvements in the fragility and brittleness announced recently means that a whole new world of applications may be opened up in the future, from clothing, to heat proofing to more.
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