Saturday, May 23, 2009

Aerogel: See-through, strong as steel and lighter than air

Dornob has a look at a low-density construction material of the future. Called Aerogel, it can support thousands of times its own weight; suppress the transfer of heat, cold and sound; is neither opaque nor fully transparent and is 1,000 times less dense than glass.

How is it made? It is derived from gel in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with gas. The result: an extremely low-density solid-state material with remarkable properties, most notably an ability to act as a thermal insulator.

It is nicknamed "frozen smoke" because of its translucence. And it feels like a very light styrofoam.

In the past year, promising new methods for inexpensively producing aerogel have cropped up. So its use as a commonplace building material -- as opposed to space shuttle tiles -- may be close at hand.

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