New, Stonger Flexible Aerogels Destined for Clothing, Space Applications
August 20, 2012 9:27 PM
New flexible aerogels
New Aerogels are 500 times stronger than current silica ancestors
NASA scientists have created stronger types of aerogels that could eventually be used for a broad spectrum of applications, such as clothing, home insulation and even in space.
Mary Ann B. Meador, Ph.D., study leader and scientist at the NASA Glenn Research Center, and a team of colleagues, have developed the new aerogel. Aerogels are the world's
lightest solid materials
, but serve as excellent insulation.
The new aerogels were made stronger than traditional aerogels by using polymer to support the networks of silica that make up their structure. Also, aerogels were made from polyimide, which is a heat-resistant material, and using cross-stitches to further strengthen the aerogel.
The result was a strong, yet flexible aerogel that can be used in many different scenarios. They could be used as insulation in clothing, tents, sleeping bags and homes, for instance. According to Meador, the aerogel is 5-10 times stronger than current insulation and wouldn't be quite as thick, offering more space inside the house.
They could also be used for larger purposes, like uniforms for firemen and
for spacecraft re-entering the Earth's atmosphere after a long journey to the International Space Station (ISS).
"The new aerogels are up to 500 times stronger than their silica counterparts," said Meador. "A thick piece actually can support the weight of a car. And they can be produced in a thin form, a film so flexible that a wide variety of commercial and industrial uses are possible."
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