The majority of aerogel is composed of silica, rather than carbon, iron oxide, organic polymers, semiconductor nanostructures, gold and copper can also form aerogel.

Have you ever thought about making the air standstill, or in a way trapping the smoke in a frozen state? Aerogel is what we are looking at here. This is an ultralight material derived from gel, but the twist is that, the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. Making it actually look translucent in nature. You might know about its existence in various other forms, like, frozen smoke, solid smoke, solid air, solid cloud, and blue smoke. All these variations is due to its translucent nature and the way light scatters in the material. Making of aerogels can be done using variety of compounds. One might take the aerogel on the face value, but it goes deep. They are promisingly solid, rigid and dry materials, which do not showcase any resemblance of a gel in their physical properties. Applying soft pressure won’t be making any effect on it, whatsoever, but when pressed hard, it scrambles into small shattered glass form. Yet there are some modern adaptation to this, which are way more solid and hard in nature than one could imagine getting from “frozen smoke”. Though in a way aerogel is technically in foam material, it can take many different shapes and forms as one would like to manipulate it. The majority of aerogel is composed of silica, rather than carbon, iron oxide, organic polymers, semiconductor nanostructures, gold and copper can also form aerogel. However, it can be within the aerogel structure. The unique composition certainly helps the aerogel in articulating an almost ghostly appearance when in front of your naked eye.

Aerogel as a material is almost made up of air, certainly around 99.8% and this lack of solid materialism allows aerogel to be so much weightless. They have a very good and probably arguable thermal insulation because of the nullifying heat transfer, using conduction and convection. Since the composition consist of almost gases, it automatically becomes a very poor conductor of heat, but then infrared radiation passes through them making them poor as radiative insulators. Aerogel is making its presence felt by becoming a must-have material in the insulation industry and has been used for several years now in cavity injected wall insulation and insulating boards. In recent times, aerogel-based plaster has been used to insulate historic buildings in Switzerland, because of it low conductivity of heat as a factor. A certain use of aerogel in this way is extremely energy efficient and environmentally beneficial, as it will cut the use of fossil fuels hugely in heating process. For the curious souls, aerogel is created by drying a gel, in otherwise very high temperature environment for normal humans. First the gel is created in a solution like those in the chemistry labs, and then the liquid component is removed via supercritical drying, which in itself is a complex process. This particular step removes liquid slowly in order to maintain the structural shape. This liquid component is then replaced by air, which give it the ghostly appearance for the human eyes. All these ghostly translucent attributes gives the aerogel a special place in the field of science. So you have the best thing in front of yours, which is as weightless as gas, yet solid as any other normal material.

Sarath Chandran, Team  AICRA FutureTech

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