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, 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:
ZEN Graphene Solutions announces collaboration agreement on carbon aerogels with German Aerospace Center
Zen Graphene Solutions recently announced that it has signed a new research collaboration agreement with the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (“DLR”, the German Aerospace Center) to investigate the use of Albany Pure graphene-based nanomaterials in the fabrication of novel carbon aerogel composites.
The goal of this collaborative research project titled, “Development of Innovative Composites based on Carbon Aerogels”, is to develop electrode materials for new generation batteries and will build on the collaboration between ZEN, DLR and Dr. Lukas Bichler at the University of British Columbia‐Okanagan Campus (UBC-O) that was previously reported.
The European GRAMOFON Project, coordinated by AIMPLAS Plastics Technology Center, has developed an innovative CO2 capture process based on novel nanomaterials and microwave energy. The project results therefore contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate Action of the UN Global Compact through decarbonization with the major advantage of doing so at a lower cost than the technologies currently in use.
During the 42-month project, innovative materials and efficient systems for capturing CO2 from post-combustion industrial emissions were developed. In particular, materials such as modified-graphene aerogels and metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have shown very good CO2 capture capacities and greater selectivity than traditional adsorbents.
Graphene Flagship partners Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, CIC EnergiGUNE and INCAR-CSIC, Spain, have produced rechargeable batteries and energy storage devices made of a non-toxic and environmentally friendly graphene-based material.
With current metal-ion batteries reaching their theoretical limitations in terms of cycle life, capacity and power, researchers focused on metal-air alternatives, such as sodium-air (Na-O2) batteries.
Associate professor of engineering at Texas State University,Dr. Maggie Chen, has been researching and studying durable, flexible electronic circuits in hopes of creating new antennas for NASA space travel programs. Chen’s work is expected to eventually replace the common use of silver materials in antennas. Ideally, Chen’s 3D-printed antennas would use graphene.
“With the antennas, our goal is to reduce the volume and weight of the antennas and to provide and implement a more efficient approach to the use of antennas in space,” Chen said. “The idea is we roll the antennas up, launch a satellite into space and pop them back out when in space so they can communicate with the stations on the ground.”
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.
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.