If you’re not familiar with the term, Aerogel is basically a synthetic porous ultralight material derived from a gel, in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with a gas. The result is a solid with extremely low density and thermal conductivity. Nicknames include “frozen smoke”, “solid smoke”, “solid air” or “blue smoke” owing to its translucent nature and the way light scatters in the material; however, it feels like extruded polystyrene (Styrofoam) to the touch. Continue reading for more.

5. Aerogel Airloys

Aerogel was first created by Samuel Stephens Kistler in 1931, as a result of a bet with Charles Learned over who could replace the liquid in “jellies” with gas without causing shrinkage.

4. Blowtorch

Aerogels are produced by extracting the liquid component of a gel through supercritical drying. This allows the liquid to be slowly dried off without causing the solid matrix in the gel to collapse from capillary action, as would happen with conventional evaporation.

3. Car

The first aerogels were produced from silica gels. Kistler’s later work involved aerogels based on alumina, chromia and tin dioxide. Carbon aerogels were first developed in the late 1980s.

2. Hydrophobic Aerogel

Aerogels by themselves are hydrophilic, but chemical treatment can make them hydrophobic. If they absorb moisture they usually suffer a structural change, such as contraction, and deteriorate, but degradation can be prevented by making them hydrophobic.

1. Flamethrower

Aerogels are good thermal insulators because they almost nullify two of the three methods of heat transfer (convection, conduction, and radiation). They are good conductive insulators because they are composed almost entirely from a gas, and gases are very poor heat conductors.