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It looks like frozen smoke. And it's the lightest solid material on the planet. Aerogel insulates space suits, makes tennis rackets stronger and could be used one day to clean up oil spills. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Alex Gash shows us some remarkable properties of this truly unique substance.
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A Solid That's Light as Air

Aerogel is the lightest solid known to science. It's also one of the most insulating materials on Earth, the most porous, and it's nearly transparent. Those last two properties made it an ideal choice for catching flecks of comet and interstellar dust on the recently-returned Stardust mission launched by NASA and JPL.

Stardust Banner
Aerogel & Peter Tsou, JPL Scientist
Flower On Aerogel Over A Flame
Matches On Aerogel Over A Flame
Aerogel Supporting A Brick
Aerogel In Hand

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How is Aerogel Made?

The Start of an Aerogel: A Gel

Aerogel is the solid framework of a gel isolated from its liquid component, prepared in such a way as to preserve the framework’s pore structure (or at least most of it). In other words, aerogel is what would be left over if you could remove the liquid from a gel without it shrinking. This is most effectively done through a special technique called supercritical drying


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Silica aerogels
Carbon aerogels
Alumina aerogels
Other aerogels

SEAgel is a material similar to organic aerogel, made of agar.

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SEAgel Aerogel lighter than air solid. Not a UFO

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  1. YouTube - QUEST Lab: Aerogel - KQED QUEST
  2. A Solid That's Light as Air
  3. Stardust - NASA's Comet Sample Return Mission
  4. Stardust | JPL | NASA
  5. Stardust | JPL | NASA
  6. Aerogel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  7. YouTube - SEAgel Aerogel lighter than air solid. Not a UFO
  1. Aerogel: See-Through, Strong as Steel & Ligher than Air | dornob
  2. Berkeley Lab News Center Feature Story: X-Ray Diffraction Looks Inside Aerogels in 3-D
  3. Aerogel Research at LBL
  4. Scientists hail ‘frozen smoke’ as material that will change world - Times Online
  5. Nanogel Aerogel - Cabot Corporation
  6. Aerogels, Aerogel Material, Nanofoams - MarkeTech International