Tiny Tech #23: Aerogels – Lighter than a Feather

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

In the movie Back to the Future, George McFly was a little confused when he told his future wife “I am your density.” To a scientist, density is the weight of an object, divided by its volume. Some solids, such as balsa wood, have very low densities. But the world's record for a low-density solid is held by substances called aerogels, which were first discovered around 1930 as a result of a friendly bet between two scientists. Aerogels consist of a lacey solid network that traps air in nano-sized holes. In fact, some aerogels are up to 99.8% air. No wonder they’re sometimes called "solid smoke." .

Aerogels are too expensive for widespread use, but they have found some specialized applications. Because aerogels transmit heat very slowly and are lightweight, NASA has used them as thermal insulation in spacecraft such as the Mars rovers. Aerogels have also been used to create powerful battery components called supercapacitors that are more than 2000 times smaller than conventional capacitors.

So…aerogels might not be used for much now, but they could be our density, I mean ... our destiny..

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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