NASA Uses Aerogel Technology
NASA Are Using Aerogel Advance Technology to Capture Small Particles In Space As Part Of Mission Stardust
The guys at NASA are using a silicon based Aerogel in their mission dubbed ‘StarDust” which involves capturing particles from space. Collecting these particles without damaging them has always posed a problem because the impact velocity of particles can be up to 6 times the speed of a rifle bullet.
Although these particles are smaller than a grain of sand, high-speed capture can alter their shape and chemical composition – or even vaporize them entirely. This silicon-based solid has a porous, sponge-like structure in which 99.8 percent of the volume is empty space. By comparison, Aerogel is 1,000 times less dense than glass, which is another silicon-based solid.
When a particle hits the aerogel, it buries itself in the material, creating a carrot-shaped track up to 200 times its own length. This slows it down and brings the sample to a relatively gradual stop. Since aerogel is mostly transparent scientists will use these tracks to find and extract the tiny particles.
First developed back in 1930 as a bet between scientist, Aerogels are now being used in many industries because of its extra ordinary properties. Originally derived from silica gel the technology has progressed to see Aerogels based on alumina, chromia and tin oxide and carbon.
Aerogel Protecting Crayons From A Flame
To the touch, Aerogels feel like a light but rigid foam, something between Styrofoam and the green floral foam used for arranging flowers. Despite what their name may suggest, Aerogels are dry materials and do not resemble a gel in their physical properties but a nanofoam.
Aerogels are remarkable thermal insulators because they almost nullify three methods of heat transfer (convection, conduction, and radiation). They are good convective inhibitors because air cannot circulate throughout the lattice. Silica Aerogel is an especially good conductive insulator because silica is a poor conductor of heat; a metallic Aerogel, on the other hand, would be a less effective insulator. Carbon Aerogel is a good radiative insulator because carbon absorbs the infrared radiation that transfers heat. The most insulating Aerogel is silica Aerogel with carbon added to it.
Aspen Aerogels have patented this nanotechnology process which delivers a revolutionary change in thermal management and energy conservation and have found a wide range of uses for industrial and consumer markets.The patented Aerogels come in easy-to-apply blankets and fabricated packages, which can be 2 to 8 times more effective than existing insulations.
Aerogels can be used in many ways, some of these include:
- Superior Thermal Insulation and Fire Protection for Military, Aerospace, Building, Construction and Consumer Appliances.
- As a Chemical Absorber for Cleaning Up Spills
- In Outdoor Gear and Apparel for Maximum Insulation, Minimum Weight and Reduced Thickness.
- As a thickening agents in paints and cosmetics.
- Aerogel can also be used as drug delivery system due to its bio-compatibility. Due to its high surface area and porous structure, drugs can be adsorbed from supercritical CO2.
- Even Dunlop have recently incorporated Aerogel into the mold of its new series of rackets.
Aerogel technology is helping to provide a better alternative for many industrial solutions and more importantly is helping to reduce the cost and increase productivity in these areas.
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