Aerogel is the lightest solid known to mankind, with only three times
the density of air. Aerogel, because of its appearence is sometimes
referred to as "frozen smoke". Aerogel produced on the ground typically
displays a blue haze or has a slight cloudiness to its appearence. This
feature is believed to be caused by impurities and variations in the
size of small pores in the Aerogel material. Scientists are trying to
eliminate this haze so that the insulator might be used in window panes and other
applications where transparency is important.
The Aerogel made aboard the flight of the Starfire Rocket has
indicated that gravity effects in samples of the material made on the ground may
be responsible for the adverse pore sizes and thus account for the lack of
transparency. Both the diameter and volume of the pores in the
space-made Aerogel appear to be between 4 and 5 times better than otherwise
identically formulated ground samples. Because Aerogels are the only known
transparent insulator, with typical heat conduction properties that are five times
better than the next best alternative, a number of novel applications are
foreseen in high performance Aerogels.
Contact Dr. David Noever
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center
Huntsville AL 35812
for more information about aerogels.
Nanotechnology: New 'Frozen Smoke' May Improve Robotic Surgery, Energy Storage
Zhai's team worked with UCF professors Saiful Khondaker, Sudipta Seal
and Quanfang Chen to create multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT)
aerogel. Carbon nanotubes are so small that thousands fit on a single
strand of human hair. And using the nanotubes instead of silica (major
material in sand), the foundation for traditional aerogel, increases the
materials' practical use."
No matter how cold the low-g bodies are in space - super-insulation
can keep the heat in where you need it.