Mar 4, 2020

Covering Yourself in Aerogel and Jumping Into a Pool Looks So Surreal

 

Aerogel has extraordinary properties but it can be tough to work with. This video by Veritasium looks at modifying aerogels to take advantage of their unique characteristics.

Aerogel’s extraordinary properties are due in large part to its structure. Aerogel is a solid but on the nanoscale it has a mesh or sponge-like structure. The struts of this structure are nanoscale, as are the pores at around 20nm across. This makes silica aerogel incredibly light (it was once the lightest solid but has now been superseded by graphene aerogel), transparent and adsorbent.

An ice-cube sized piece of aerogel has an internal surface area roughly equal to half a football field. Aerogel is used in high end museum cases to regulate humidity. Plus it helps maintain the vacuum on the Mars Insight seismometers – it adsorbs moisture and other outgassed volatiles that come from the spacecraft itself. Proposed uses include as a physical insecticide by ‘drying out insects’ reducing the need for chemical and toxic pesticides.

 

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