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Aerogels Vary Widely Depending On The Synthesis Method

Feb 23

Silica Aerogels have gained popularity because of their wide range of exceptional properties which include low thermal conductivity (0.01 W/m.K), high porosity and surface area, high optical transmission in visible light, low refraction index and dielectric constant, and mechanical strength. However, the most unique property of silica aerogel is its open porous structure which allows gases to enter and leave it without restriction, unlike closed porous materials such as foams.

Moreover, the open porous network of Silica Aerogel in Insulation makes it ideal for nonlinear optics experiments as it can transmit intense laser pulses and sustain their high intensity in a continuous wave regime. For these reasons, ENERSENS has developed a special process to produce silica aerogel by sol-gel chemistry using ethanol as a solvent. Unlike conventional supercritical drying techniques which are resource intensive, the ENERSENS method allows large quantities of silica gel to be dried under atmospheric pressure and at temperatures up to 150°C in a short time frame. This is possible because of a state-of-the-art computer controlled evaporation microwave oven operating at 915 MHz, which in combination with vacuum pumps and a three meter-high condensation column enables the material to be quickly and homogenously dried.

The physical properties of aerogels vary widely depending on the synthesis method and chemical composition. For example, the porosity and density of silica aerogels prepared using TEOS/supercritical-ethanol have a much lower value than those made using RHA at ambient conditions. Additionally, the porosity of silica aerogels is affected by their surface chemistry which can be modified to change the hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties.

In addition to this, the physical properties of aerogels are greatly influenced by their surface structure which can be adjusted to improve the acoustic and optical performances. For example, by incorporating carbon powders into the silica aerogel matrix, its opacity can be enhanced which helps to reduce infrared radiation heat transfer within the system.

With rising energy consumption, the need for more efficient insulators is becoming increasingly important. Recently, researchers have been exploring the use of silica aerogels for thermal insulation. They have found that the ultra-low thermal conductivity of silica aerogels can significantly reduce energy consumption in residential buildings by reducing the amount of heat loss through walls and windows.

To evaluate the potential benefits of using silica aerogels for thermal insulation, a computational simulation was performed on a model of a residential house. The results showed that by using silica aerogels as insulation for the roof, walls, and windows of a typical home, energy consumption can be reduced by approximately 14%. This result is comparable to the savings that can be achieved by installing a new insulation product such as foam insulation. To simulate the performance of silica aerogels, the multiphysics software ANSYS FLUENT was used. The software was able to accurately predict the energy consumption and the resulting savings.