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Nano-Encapsulated Aerogel
August 26, 2011

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To improve efficiency and safety in aerospace, civil engineering, transportation, oil and gas, renewable energy, and medicine

NASA seeks interested parties for the commercial application of a patented nano-encapsulated aerogel technology that was developed by engineers at the Johnson Space Center. Aerogel, nicknamed solid smoke, has been used in a variety of space missions for its properties as the lowest-density solid known. Aerogel's low density makes it useful as a lightweight structural material, and its low thermal conductivity makes it a highly efficient insulating material. Encapsulating the aerogel expands its uses when exposed to vibration and compression while improving its flexibility.


  • Composition:
    • Aerogel network encased in polymer
    • Extremely light-weight
  • Capabilities:
    • Insulation for acoustic and thermal uses
    • Filtering ability for gases and fluids
    • Negligible weight increase when installed
    • One inch of aerogel is equal to 10 inches of fiberglass insulation batting
  • Strength:
    • Increased value based on coating material
    • Fewer particulates generated
    • Can be pre-formed into shapes or machined


  • Acoustic insulation
  • Thermal insulation
  • Particle capture
  • Fluid and gas absorption
  • Color Changing Sensor
  • Filtering
  • Catalyst support

Technology Details

Why it Was Developed
NASA's Johnson Space NASA is researching methods to coat Aerogel insulation in order to make it better able to withstand vibration, mechanical compression and flexure, and other environmental damage. Coating aerogel protects it from disintegration and shields it from adsorbing humidity or other gases, which could bind to the substance and change its properties.

How it Works
The coating process is done on the microscopic level and can use a variety of monomers. The resulting polymer permeates the aerogel's microstructure, strengthening it and reducing fragmentation even if the aerogel matrix itself suffers some breakage, thereby maintaining its insulation value and alleviating environmental concerns about the scattering of particles. The goal of the encapsulation process is to maintain most of the porosity and insulation value of the aerogel. This coating process is expected to greatly increase the material's strength as well as improve its flexibility.

Coating materials can include metals or other compounds. Blue is nickel; pale green is copper; orange is iron oxide; black is carbon and iron; the remaining samples are coated with organic compounds. These are examples that rugged catalyst support with high surface area is possible.

Areas that Benefit
The new technology would allow aerogel to be marketed in previously under-tapped areas for uses such as a space-saving thermal insulator, since the current form has a greater R-value in a smaller volume than other thermal materials. Other uses for the technology include gas adsorbents, acoustic insulation, color-changing gas sensors, catalyst supports, fire blocks, high-efficiency filters, as well as to capture fragments from penetrating particles. and to NASA for benefit of the space program and U.S. industry.

NASA has patented this technology (U.S. 7,270,851→) with a second patent pending.

Licensing and Partnering Opportunity

This technology is being made available through JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, which seeks to transfer technology into and out of NASA to benefit the space program and U.S. industry. NASA invites companies to consider licensing the Nano-Encapsulated Aerogel technology (MSC-23563) for commercial applications.

Contact Information

Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center
Phone: 281-483-3809
E-mail: jsc-techtran@mail.nasa.gov

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Page Last Updated: January 16th, 2014
Page Editor: NASA Administrator