Frozen Smoke: Material of the Future

AerogelFrozen Smoke known commercially as Areogel is an amazing material gaining ground in manufacturing and tech circles are as a building block for the 21st century. This incredible gel can protect your home against bomb blasts, clean up oil spills and pollution, and help us get to Mars. Plus it is super light and super strong!

Aerogel, is one of the world's lightest solids. It can withstand a direct blast of 1kg of dynamite and it can insulate against heat from a blowtorch at more than 1,300C. Everyday new applications are found ranging from clothes and sporting equipment, to space suits and anti ballistic protection.

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Aerogel has the lowest density of any product known to man. It is made by extracting water from a silica gel, then replacing it with gas such as carbon dioxide. The result is a substance that is capable of insulating against extreme temperatures and of absorbing pollutants such as crude oil.

Invented by an American chemist for a bet in 1931, early versions were so brittle and costly that it was largely consigned to laboratories. About 10 years ago NASA started taking an interest in the substance and putting it to a more practical use. In 1999 the space agency fitted its Stardust space probe with a mitt packed full of aerogel to catch the dust from a comet's tail. It returned with a packed with samples last year.

In 2002 Aspen Aerogel, a company created by Nasa, produced a stronger and more flexible version of the gel. It is now being used to develop an insulated lining in space suits for the first manned mission to Mars, scheduled for 2018. Current theory is that an 18mm layer of Aerogel will be sufficient to protect astronauts from temperatures as low as -130C.

The military wants it bad also. Aerogel is also being tested for future bombproof housing and armor for military vehicles. In a test, a metal plate coated in 6mm of Aerogel was left almost unscathed by a direct dynamite explosion. Imagine how a vehicle protected with Aerogel would survive a roadside bomb. Why we aren't saving soldiers lives with it is beyond me.

Aerogel is strongIt also is greener than Kermit. Aerogel is described by scientists as the "ultimate sponge", with millions of tiny pores on its surface making it ideal for absorbing pollutants in water. There even is a new version of Aerogel designed to mop up lead and mercury from water. Other versions are designed to absorb oil spills.

Plus it is also being used for everyday applications. Dunlop, the sports equipment company, has developed a range of squash and tennis rackets strengthened with Aerogel, which are said to deliver more power. Mountain climbers are using boots and sleeping bags padded with the material, climbing Everest easier than before. However, it has failed to convince the fashion world. Hugo Boss created a line of winter jackets out of the material but had to withdraw them after complaints that they were too hot.

More advanced versions of Aerogel which are made from platinum can be used to speed up the production of hydrogen. As a result, Aerogel can be used to make hydrogen-based fuels using fewer materials. This will help reduce the size and weight of fuel cells.

It seems like Aerogel is the next big thing. There isn't anything it doesn't do. So If I were a man with some money I know where I would invest it and you might want to do the same.


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