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:

Researchers develop a graphene oxide aerogel foam to improve all solid state lithium batteries

Researchers from China's Jiangsu University and Changzhou University have developed a non-ceramic solid-state electrolyte based on a graphene oxide (GO) aerogel framework filled with polyethylene oxide.

Li-ion batteries currently perform a key role in electric cars, but contain combustible liquid electrolytic materials which may pose major safety issues. The solid-state electrolyte (SSE) can replace the standard organic liquid electrolyte and is predicted to address safety issues such as leaking, heat runaway, and even explosions during operation.

New chemical glucose sensing tech based on boronic acids and graphene foam

Researchers at the University of Bath, in collaboration with industrial partner Integrated Graphene, have developed a sensing technique based on graphene foam, for the detection of glucose levels in the blood.

The newly developed sensor is a chemical one instead of enzyme-based, which makes the technology robust, with a long shelf-life and more sensitive to lower glucose concentrations compared to current systems.

Lyten commissioned by U.S DIU to demonstrate battery technology for space applications

Lyten, an advanced materials company developing lithium-sulfur battery technology based on Lyten 3D Graphene, has announced that it secured a prototype Other Transaction (OT) agreement in support of the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) around high-specific energy storage and management solutions.

A core objective of the agreement is to demonstrate a lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery solution that will significantly increase the duty cycle of small satellites for the U.S. Space Force, which is one of many applications for the new Li-S battery technology. The ultimate goal of the effort is to develop a lithium-sulfur rechargeable battery capable of three times the energy storage capacity of current lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, enabling the use of higher duty cycle spacecraft and those that function longer during an eclipse.

Graphene Composites announces R&D partnership with ABBS for graphene-based armored vehicle protection technologies

Graphene Composites (GC) has announced a research and development partnership with Advanced Blast & Ballistic Systems (ABBS), a leading developer of active systems for protecting armored vehicles from mine and IED blasts.

The partnership will focus on the use of GC’s nanomaterials engineering technologies – particularly GC Shield® technology – to improve blast and ballistic protection performance of its systems, with testing and FEA modelling which explores the use of graphene enhanced materials as a part of its continued development of the underbelly blast plate.

Researchers use 'aerographene' to create controllable electrical explosions

An international research team, led by Germany's Kiel University (CAU) and including scientists from the University of Southern Denmark, Technische Universität Dresden, University of Trento, Sixonia Tech and Queen Mary University of London, has used aero-graphene to develop a new method for the generation of controllable electrical explosions. "Aerographene" consists of a finely-structured tubular network based on graphene with numerous cavities. This makes it extremely stable, conductive and almost as lightweight as air.

The research team has now taken a major step toward practical applications. They have succeeded in repeatedly heating and cooling aerographene and the air contained inside it to very high temperatures in an extremely short period of time. This enables extremely powerful pumps, compressed air applications or sterilizing air filters in miniature.