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Aerogel Applications

AeroGel has changed the world of insulation. It began as a brittle substance with very good insulation properties and ended up as one of the most light-weight and flexible materials known to man. And this is all because of a company known as Aspen Aerogels. Aspen Aerogels took this brittle substance and used patented technology to transform it into two different types of innovative Aerogels. These new innovative Aerogels are known as Spaceloft and Pyrogel.

 

Spaceloft is flexible form of AeroGel that has been designed to be a nanoporous material that can be manufactured into flexible insulation blankets that can withstand temperatures from cryogenic up to 200 C. And these blankets can be used in products such as gloves, jackets, sleeping bags, boots, and many other applications that require superior thermal insulation. However, due to its newness, it is extremely expensive to buy and is therefore not used by many companies and therefore is hard to find at a store near you. But there are a few companies such as Burton, an extreme weather gear manufacturing company located in Burlington, Vermont. Burton manufactures such products as the Burton Ronin Katana Jacket. This jacket utilizes Spaceloft AeroGel to provide the wearer with superior comfort and warmth. Even in the most extreme winter weather conditions, it is proven to be up to ten times warmer than any other winter jacket, allowing the user to withstand temperatures up to minus fifty degrees Fahrenheit. Burton also utilizes Spaceloft AeroGel in there Pinnacle Plus Mitt, a winter weather glove that delivers heat to specifically mapped areas of your hand to ensure your warmth, without adding unnecessary bulk. Another type of AeroGel that is similar to Spaceloft is Pyrogel.

 
Pyrogel is also flexible, however unlike Spaceloft, Pyrogel can withstand temperatures up 650 C. This makes Pyrogel a perfect material for insulating such products as industrial equipment, power generation equipment, fire protection equipment, and, of course, Aerospace equipment. Pyrogel can find itself in situations such as a space shuttle launch, where there is a need for a firewall to protect vital equipment from being damaged or insulating the space shuttle itself from the harsh conditions of outer space. It can also be found in fire suits so that firefighters can withstand extreme temperatures for longer periods of time, decreasing the risk of fatality to the firefighter and the people that might be in a fire. Pyrogel is also a perfect thermal insulating shield for astronauts’ space suits, where there is the possibility of extreme temperatures in both directions. And because of its lightness it allows the astronauts’ themselves to have better mobility. Pyrogel can even be found in steel foundries where there is a need for insulations to protect equipment and people from the extremely hot temperatures of molten steel. There are many other applications for Pyrogel, but once again, due to its pricy-ness, it may not be seen in general applications such as automobiles and homes for years.
 

AeroGel represents one of the most innovative technological advances the world has ever seen. It started as a brittle, useless substance but eventually was transformed into flexible, innovative materials that can be manufactured into Spaceloft or Pyrogel. As these two types of Aerogels are seen everywhere there is a need for extreme thermal protection, maybe in the future it will be seen in automobiles, homes, and clothing for a price not much more that what is paid for the general insulation used today.

 

References
  • Aspen Aerogels, INC: [Online]. Available at: http://www.aerogel.com
  • Burton Snowboards: [Online]. Available at: http://www.burton.com
  • Popular Mechanics: Smart Threads. [Online]. Available at: http://popularmechanics.com/outdoors/outdoors/2004/4/smart_threads/index3.phtm
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