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Aerogel, best insulator on Earth

  1. Oct 27, 2006 #1


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    Today I went to the JPL at Pasadena, and I saw the Aerogel. It is said it is the best insulator on Earth. They used it for insulating the Mars Rover vehicles. But it seems that is weak when shear stress is applied.

    Do you know what are the current applications of Aerogel, and why is it not used more often?.
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  3. Oct 28, 2006 #2


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    I don't know of any current uses other than shuttle tiles. The stuff is truly amazing, and should have applications in such things as fire-fighter protective gear. I suspect that the main problems are production cost and the fact that, from the last time I saw a report about it, it's very fragile (brittle) in terms of mechanical strength.
  4. Oct 28, 2006 #3


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    I know it was used in the Stardust Mission to trap and return samples from a comet.
  5. Oct 28, 2006 #4
    I was messing around with my friends aerogel sample that he got from a private tour of jpl since caltech is only about 40 minutes away.

    it was more of a foam than a gell and it breaks apart if you squeeze it and rub your fingers together

    it doesn't seem to have much use to me other than taking up alot of space with little mass. maybe if they need to fill an area with something stable that isn't too heavy they fill it up with aerogell
  6. Oct 29, 2006 #5
    It doesn't seem to have the characteristics of gel, does it? I wonder why they call it that then. If its such a good insulator, do you think that it can replace the vacuum we use as an insulator, like in a thermos. Of course vacuum is definitely the best insulator, but it isn't true vacuum we have there and maybe it can play a role in deflecting/absorbing emf rays.
  7. Oct 29, 2006 #6


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    It appears that I was mistaken about something. Aren't the shuttle tiles a specialized form of aerogel?
  8. Oct 31, 2006 #7


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    As far as I know, the Space Shuttle's Thermal protection System consists of carbon and silica ceramic tiles. There's a really cool picture of a guy holding a red-hot piece of silica tile fresh out of the kiln. They say because the thermal conductivity of the tile is so low he can hold it for up to 10 seconds!

    Last edited: Oct 31, 2006
  9. Nov 1, 2006 #8
    Yes, I've seen and held both and although they are both unique the shuttle tiles are more like "malted milk balls" if you will, an airy spongy substance but still "solid" in that they are hard and would crumble if you were to crush them with your hand. The AeroGel appears to be a gel and looks like jello almost but holding it is like holding air, in fact I never actually "held" it but held a plastic bag containing it as it's far too easy to lose if you were to try and physically hold it yourself.
  10. Nov 1, 2006 #9


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    Thanks for the clarification.
  11. Nov 1, 2006 #10
    reinforced carbon-carbon isn't aerogel

    aerogel is a somewhat foam-like gray solid. when you are doing things with it, its like a piece of extremely light foam
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