Light As Air
Aerogels are among the lightest solid materials ever discovered or invented by mankind. They are made by combining a polymer with a solvent to form a gel, and then removing the liquid from the gel and replacing it with air. The result is a substance with the structure of a gel, but without the liquid, and therefore without the weight. Aerogels are extremely porous, low in density, and extremely light. They perform excellently as insulation.
NASA's Glenn Research Center is investigating ways to revolutionize aerogels for use in space exploration, which could also be useful in terrestrial applications.
Glenn collaborates with the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio to fabricate the new types of aerogels Glenn researchers develop. Here, NASA's Stephanie Vivod works to create new forms of aerogels.
Image Credit: NASA
Marvin G. Smith (Wyle Information Systems LLC)