| 9 May 2004 @ 08:41, by ming|
From Ming the Mechanic: Ha, this is cool. Aerogel is a weird and wonderful material that looks like solid smoke and is the lightest solid substance we know. Only a little heavier than air. 0.003 grams per cubic centimeter. 1000 times less dense than glass. And it is made of 99.8% air. But yet it is the most efficient insulator we know, 39 times more insulating than the best fiberglass insulation. And it is very strong, able to carry 2,000 times its own weight without damage. And non-toxic. It was invented in the 1930s, but was largely forgotten until somebody at JPL in the 1980s needed a material that could gather comet particles that might be moving three to six miles per second, without destroying either them or the collector. Now it is being used frequently in space probes, and you can get arctic clothing that uses it as insulation. Articles: NY Times, SpaceDaily, and JPL has information and some cool pictures. And here's a company selling it. It is still very expensive, though.