NASA Silica Aerogel
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NASA Silica Aerogel
A Real Piece of space history.

    This is a piece of Silica Aerogel, the same type that is used in the Mars Pathfinder Rover. This is 99.8 % AIR!  Aerogel is super expensive to make, and very difficult to acquire.

Silica Aerogel's are generally known for being an extremely lightweight transparent solid (down to <0.05 g/cm3 with excellent thermal insulating properties, high temperature stability, very low dielectric constant, and extremely high surface area).
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been listed in the Guinness World Records for creating the world's lightest solid.
Aerogel is also extremely expensive, costing
approx. $200-$300 a cubic inch.

    Some initial applications have included atomic particle detectors and super insulation for aerospace applications and they were used to insulate the Mars rover. Notice how no heat can penetrate Aerogel. Super capacitors are also now made with Aerogel. This type of Aero gel used by NASA laboratory is created by a special Chemical process.

   The science behind Aerogel has been known for about 40 years now. There is even Aerogel which is magnetic, or can be attracted to a magnet, yet is not a metal. Magnetic Aerogel contains no Ferro Fluid, but has embedded tiny nanometer pieces of conductive and magnetic carbon. The nanometer size gaseous holes in Aerogel give it is translucent look. Considered glass, and is in the Guinness book of records for the lightest solid material known to man. It is currently being used in several of NASA's space projects and will be used more extensively in the coming years.

Some Aerogel Facts

It is 99.8% Air.

Provides up to 39 times more insulation than the best fiberglass insulation.

It is 1,000 times less dense than glass.

It was used on the Mars Pathfinder Sojourner rover.

Will be used to insulate the batteries of the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers.

Aerogel will catch a piece of a comet on the Stardust mission in 2003/2004.

   NASA's Stardust mission, currently on its way to comet "Wild 2" (pronounced Vilt 2), will use Aerogel to catch interstellar and comet dust particles and bring samples back to Earth in 2006. When Stardust encounters the comet, the particles will be traveling up to 6 times the speed of a bullet.
The Aerogel aboard the Stardust spacecraft is fitted into a tennis racket-shaped collector grid. One side of the collector will face toward the particles coming from the comet, while the reverse, or B side, will be turned to face the streams of interstellar dust at various points in the mission's seven year journey.

    To collect these delicate particles, each smaller than a grain of sand, Aerogel will gradually slow them to a stop without damaging them or altering their shape and chemical composition. 

    The Aerogel on Stardust was developed and manufactured at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is less dense at the impact face where the particle encounters the Aerogel and yet has a gradually increasing density as the particle burrows deeper and slows to a stop. This is a similar concept to the use of progressive lens in eyeglasses.

Here is another example of
Aerogel's ability to withstand high temperatures on one side while remaining cool on the other. Notice how the crayons do not melt even when subjected to a torch.

A piece of our Aerogel is currently on display at the
South Florida Science Museum South Florida Science Museum
Here is one of our pieces of Aerogel
on display at the
South Florida
Science Museum
in West Palm Beach.
Here is one of our pieces of Aerogel
on display at the
Museum of Discovery & Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

This is just part of the  Space Collection  from the
High-Tech Science & Technology Centers

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