Article last updated on: Jan 23, 2019

What is aerogel?

Aerogel is created by combining a polymer with a solvent to form a gel, and then removing the liquid from the gel and replacing it with gas (usually air). The high air content (99.98% air by volume) makes it one of the world's lightest solid material. Aerogels can be made from a variety of chemical compounds, and are a diverse class of materials with unique properties. They are known as excellent insulators, and usually have low density and low thermal conductivity.

Aerogels can be used in various applications, and although they have been around since the 1930s, their development is still progressing (for example, NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland has invented several groundbreaking methods of creating new types of aerogels).

Common applications include enhancing the thermal performance of energy-saving materials and sustainable products for buildings, acting as a high performance additive to coatings, prevention of corrosion under insulation, uses in imaging devices, optics, and light guides, thermal breaks and condensation control, architectural lighting panels, outdoor and sports gear and clothing, and more.

Graphene aerogel

Graphene aerogel, also known as aerographene, is considered to be the least dense solid in existence (graphene aerogels are light enough to be balanced on small plants!).

Graphene aerogels are quite elastic and can easily retain their original form after some compression. In addition, the low density of graphene aerogels makes them very absorbent (to the point where it can even absorb more than 850 times its own weight). This means that it could be useful for environmental clean-ups like oil spills, and the aerogels only need to be picked up later after absorbing the spilled material. Graphene aerogel may also have some applications in both the storage and the transfer of energy by enabling the creation of lighter, higher-energy-density batteries - and vigorous research is being done on the matter.

Graphene aerogel are somewhat similar to graphene foams. Graphene foams are usually made by CVD growth on a metal structure (which is later removed), and are so more conductive than graphene aerogels.

Graphene aerogels are already being sold commercially, for about about $300 per gram.

The latest Graphene Aerogel news:

New rGO sponge may open the door to efficient lithium sulphur batteries

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have recently developed a promising breakthrough for lithium sulphur batteries, using a catholyte with a graphene sponge. Such batteries may offer a theoretical energy density more than five times that of lithium ion batteries.

Chalmers University designs rGO-enhanced lithium sulphur batteries imageStructure of the lithium sulfur battery

The researchers' approach relies on a porous, sponge-like aerogel, made of reduced graphene oxide, that acts as a free-standing electrode in the battery cell and allows for better and higher utilization of sulphur.

Graphene Composites exceeds crowdfunding target for graphene bulletproof shields

Graphene Composites, a UK-based company developing graphene-enhanced bulletproof shields, has exceeded its crowdfunding target. GC attempted to raise £300,000 on Crowdcube, but ended up raising £510,680 (around 676,625 USD).

Graphene composites bulletproof shield photo

Once Graphene Composites had hit its crowdfunding target, the company sent out a message to its supporters saying: “Thank You - by investing in GC, you have not only invested in a company that should provide you with a healthy return and strong dividends, you are also enabling us to develop and deliver products that will truly improve the quality of life for many around the world. For example, our GC Shield active shooter protection in schools now, and eventually our Lightning Harvester renewable energy sources. Thank You, from all of us on the GC Team”.

Talga reports positive results on its graphene-enhanced epoxy composite trials

Australia-based advanced materials technology company, Talga Resources, has reported outstanding conductivity results from its Talphene-enhanced epoxy composite trials undertaken at TWI in the UK. Carbon fiber reinforced polymer (“CFRP”) panels were constructed using a dispersion of Talga graphene (Talphene) in the epoxy-based resin of the composite and subjected to a range of conductivity tests pertinent to aircraft applications.

Talga reports positive results on its graphene-enhanced epoxy composite trials imageCFRP test panels after lightning strike tests (Talphene panel on right in both photos). Image by Talga

Results reported by Talga showed the Talphene panel provided similar lightning strike protection as copper mesh panels currently used in composite aircraft but saved 75% of the weight of the copper. Further results demonstrating Talphene’s significant conductivity included up to 500% increase in dielectric constant, 100% increase in resin thermal conductivity as well as spot temperatures well over 100 degrees celsius in anti-icing trials.

Rice team gives epoxy a graphene boost

Rice University scientists have developed a graphene-based epoxy for electronic applications. Epoxy combined with graphene foam invented in the Rice lab of Prof. James Tour) is reportedly substantially tougher than pure epoxy and far more conductive than other epoxy composites, while retaining the material's low density. It could improve upon epoxies in current use that weaken the material's structure with the addition of conductive fillers.

Rice team gives epoxy a graphene boost image

By itself, epoxy is an insulator, and is commonly used in coatings, adhesives, electronics, industrial tooling and structural composites. Metal or carbon fillers are often added for applications where conductivity is desired, like electromagnetic shielding. The trade-off, however, is that more filler brings better conductivity at the cost of weight and compressive strength, and the composite becomes harder to process. The Rice solution replaces metal or carbon powders with a 3D foam made of nanoscale sheets of graphene.

New graphene scaffold capacitors break capacitance records

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have developed a new fabrication technique to make capacitors enhanced with graphene. The resulting devices store a large amount of charge over a given surface area - an important metric for measuring the performance of a capacitor.

The new technique uses a 3D printer to construct a microscopic scaffold with porous graphene and then fills the structure with a kind of material called a pseudocapacitive gel, which is a kind of capacitor material that also behaves like a battery in some ways.

Versarien - Think you know graphene? Think again! Versarien - Think you know graphene? Think again!