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Aerogel


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#1 cwes99_03

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 09:22 AM

I know next to nothing about Aerogel.

Recently a capsule from the stardust spacecraft was returned to earth, hopefully containing some particles captures during it's journey around our solar system in aerogel.

What does anyone know about aerogel on this site?

Here's my thoughts, can aerogel be fabricated in space and attached to a spacecraft which could later return the sample to be observed in space?

Why you ask. The method for sending anything into space and retreiving it back to earth is quite intense. Probably intense enough that if Aerogel was at the right density to capture particles moving through space, any impact trails or craters (created by those particles) or what have you would be damaged on reentry, and some may be artificially created during launch.

Wouldn't the data be easier to study if the gel was created on the space station and also examined on it?

#2 Roadam

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 10:31 AM

First to look, at least for me, is always wikipedia. So there is quite an article about aerogel. I wont put the info here but as far as I understood the article, produstion of aerogel involves quite some chemistry.
As for use in catching space particles, that probe had quite some weight spent for shielding and preventing stresses on aerogel so I dont think that there was much damage at all.
Still if someone would find all the ingredients to fabricate aerogels in space, they would more probably be used for shielding and insulation.

#3 Tormod

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 11:38 AM

http://hypography.co...l-moonbase.html

http://www.hypograph...le.cfm?id=32451

#4 cwes99_03

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 01:54 PM

So, aerogel, isn't really a gel at all (at least not once is is completed.) Instead it is a hard glass sponge (though not really spongy). I have held ceramic material like this before. Really hard, really light stuff. (An alumni works for an aeronautics company out in California.)

So, I guess this answers the question. The only tracks left through the material are broken bits of glass webbing. Sounds difficult to identify tracks if the material is inhomogenous. (Making a guess here as I doubt the glass material has a regular structure to it on a macroscopic scale.)
Check out today's APOD

#5 InfiniteNow

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 04:47 PM

They talked about in today's Astronomy Picture of the Day:

http://antwrp.gsfc.n...d/ap061025.html

Explanation: What caused that hole? The hole in question appears as a small dark circle on the far right. If the above image of aerogel seems dull and uninteresting, then welcome to one aspect of real world science. The interesting part is that something created that dark hole, and it might well be one of the first pieces of matter ever captured from outside our Solar System. Whatever created that hole was captured by the aerogel of the robotic Stardust spacecraft that flew across our Solar System for years and then returned a capsule to Earth. Scientists are now poring over the aerogel, looking to see what particles have become trapped. Many particles are surely from local Comet Wild 2, which Stardust flew past in 2004. Just a few particles, though, perhaps 10 or less, are expected to be from outside our Solar System. It is so difficult to find them that the Stardust team has created a downloadable interactive microscope program to allow anyone with a standard computer to help inspect aerogel slices and look for interstellar dust tracks. Good candidate tracks will later be inspected in great detail by members of the Stardust team.



#6 Tormod

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Posted 25 October 2006 - 11:01 PM

Have a look at this image which shows how tracks look when seen from the side:
Posted Image

(click for full size)

#7 TheFaithfulStone

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 12:20 AM

Aerogel can't be fabricated in a vacuum, nor is it "airtight." The air gets "baked" out of an aerogel so that the lattice the silicon forms is incredibly strong. If you were to try it in a vacuum you'd just get... sand I suppose.

Also, it's extremely brittle, so if your spaceship got hit by a meteorite, it's somewhat likely to shatter.

However, it's EXTREMELY light, a near perfect insulator. Put an inch thick layer of aerogel around your house, and you could easily drive yourself out using only a candle.

Also, and this is cool, I've seen a picture somewhere of an aerogel block sitting on top of a Bunsen burner flame (the difference in air pressure is enough to hold it up) and on top of it was sitting an unmelted ice cube.

You can buy little bits of it on the internet for about $30/g. Considering how light it is, that's probably quite a bit of the stuff.

TFS

#8 cwes99_03

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 09:06 AM

Thanks TORMOD for the picture. I wondered what the tracks would look like. Do you have any comments on them as relates to the APOD discussion posted above by Infinite that I referred to, and to my comments on the lattice structure being inhomogenous which would IMHO make it difficult (if not impossible) to know some data about the projectile that created the damage (like mass and velocity)?

Sorry for the long drawn out question.

#9 Lord Hakk

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 09:12 AM

So, aerogel, isn't really a gel at all (at least not once is is completed.) Instead it is a hard glass sponge (though not really spongy). I have held ceramic material like this before. Really hard, really light stuff. (An alumni works for an aeronautics company out in California.)

So, I guess this answers the question. The only tracks left through the material are broken bits of glass webbing. Sounds difficult to identify tracks if the material is inhomogenous. (Making a guess here as I doubt the glass material has a regular structure to it on a macroscopic scale.)
Check out today's APOD


but if aerogel is hard, wont the dust particles from space lose there outer coating or distroy themselfs going at the speed they do? shouldnt they use accually gellike substance if they dont want to damage the rocks and dust?

#10 cwes99_03

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 09:46 AM

Thus the questions that have been raised, welcome to the discussion Lord Hakk.

I agree with the thought you just posted. However, I'm not an expert. I would think that the "dust" particles are probably harder than the glass and wouldn't suffer too much damage. It is much like decelerating anything in the proper way. An indy car running into the wall on the race track will be damaged severly if new barriers aren't used, but when the new barriers are used, significantly less damage is incurred. A pure gel substance isn't necessarily necessary, however a "softer" substance would do less damage, as well as possibly trap any gas or ice particles that would otherwise evaporate.

Oh and as noted, in order to collect these space particles the substrate has to be exposed to vaccuum conditions (which would evaporate the gel or freeze it solid either way making it worthless to researchers.

#11 leuv21

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 02:58 AM

aerogel, isn't really a gel at all. Silica aerogel is the most common type of aerogel and the most extensively studied and used. It is a silica-based substance, derived from silica gel. The world's lowest-density solid is a silica aeroge and structurally resembles a sponge.
personally i find like a bit of ceramic materials. Maybe more products will be derived from. It seems it might help in the construction industry.

#12 cwes99_03

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Posted 31 October 2006 - 08:41 AM

Thanks leuv21, all of this has already been stated in this very short thread. Please read the thread a bit more before commenting.

#13 pgrmdave

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 10:25 AM

Does anybody know what areogel would cost to use as some sort of building material? It sounds like it would be an excellent firewall or insulator.

EDIT:

Hmmm, it appears that it would cost far too much.

http://www.unitednuc...com/aerogel.htm

#14 cwes99_03

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Posted 08 November 2006 - 11:23 AM

I seemed to have thought someone's post above didn't make it seem all that expensive. The website you show there however does make it seem quite a bit more expensive (or at least they are charging a lot as a middle man.)

The website also brought up the thought on desication. The website obviously shows a human hand holding a sample of the stuff, yet it says that doing so will cause a loss of moisture at the contact point resulting in dry skin patches that slowly go away.

1) If aerogel is such a fine desicant, how do you keep an aerogel sample from becoming weighed down with water vapor collected out of the air?

2) should aerogel be used as an insulator and become filled with water vapor how would it react in contact with other materials (say drywall or wood)?

Sounds like an intersting couple of points to start out with. Anyone want to share in looking for the answers?

#15 CraigD

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 12:39 AM

Aerogels have been used, and show great promise, as supercapacitor material. Supercapacitors have the potential to be used in applications that currently use conventional storage batteries (lead-acid, NiMH, LiIon, etc), such as electric vehicles, but have practically unlimited maximum power (voltage), and can be charged by a very high power electric current in practically not time (seconds). Aerogels are well suited for supercapactiors because they have very large surface areas.

Fans of science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer may recall, in the “Riverworld” series of novels, a large boat capable of moving 24 hours on a charge from a lightning strike – although Farmer described the technology only as something developed by German engineers in the 21st century, not as an aerogel or any other specific material.