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Mary Bellis

The Unusual Properties of Frozen Smoke

By January 23, 2014

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A flower is on a piece of aerogel which is suspended over a bunsen burner.Not literally frozen smoke, that's the nickname for "aerogels", new materials so light they are currently the world's lowest density solids, consisting of 96% air. Aerogels have other remarkable properties, they can support several thousand times their own weight, they can withstand damage from high explosives, and they are the world's bests insulators.

The photo to the left demonstrates how powerful an insulation aerogels can be. A piece of aerogel protects the flower from the flame of the bunsen burner. The photo below demonstrates the strength of aerogels. A 2.5 kg brick is supported on top of a piece of aerogel weighing only 2 grams.

Aerogels are created by combining a polymer with a solvent to form a gel, and then removing the liquid from the gel and replacing it with air. They were invented by chemical engineer, Samuel Stephens Kistler in 1931. Kistler made a bet with fellow chemist Charles Learned over who could replace the liquid in gels with gas without causing shrinkage. Kistler won the bet.

Although aerogels were first invented in the 1930s, NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland has furthered Kistler's research and invented groundbreaking methods of creating new types of aerogels. Photo Credits: NASA

A 2.5 kg brick is supported on top of a piece of aerogel weighing only 2 grams.

February 13, 2013 at 1:10 pm
(1) bobo says:


February 15, 2013 at 9:05 am
(2) Jeffery says:

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April 20, 2014 at 12:38 am
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