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Silica Aerogel

Silica Aerogel

Introduction: • Silica aerogel is a nanostructured material with high specific surface area, high porosity, low density, low dielectric constant and excellent heat insulation properties. • Aerogel was invented by NASA in the 1930s.However, the newly developed "Silica Aerogel," which is being hailed as the world's lightest material that acts as an effective insulator, has been developed by Indian scientists from Vikram Sarabhai Space Center. • It is also referred to as "frozen smoke", for its lightness or "blue air." • It is the world's lightest synthetic material made by man. Properties of Silica Aerogel: • The material has uses both in space and on Earth. • So light in weight that it can be delicately placed on a flower head. • Excellent thermal resistance and acts as a good insulator. • The matrix of aerogel is made up of 99 per cent air. • The material is still very fragile and brittle and scientists at the space centre are still finding ways to make it tough and resilient. Applications: • Scientists hope it can be used to insulate rocket engines. • This synthetic material can be incorporated both on Earth as well as in space. • It can be also painted on windows in to keep buildings cool or warm. • If used as a filler in soldiers' uniforms it can possibly help save many lives at the Siachen glacier. • It can be also painted on windows in to keep buildings cool or warm. • It has applications for thermal jacket, foot insoles, as well as for window glazing. • It is extremely useful for people working in very cold environments, in a very strategic way. • It can be smartly used as a filler in soldiers' uniforms to keep them warm when subjected to freezing cold climatic conditions. • Frozen smoke can be used to make light weight clothing, if painted on windows it can keep buildings cool or warm. • The material is likely to be used on India's moon rover in Chandryaan-2 mission. Safety: • Silica-based aerogels are not known to be carcinogenic or toxic. However, they are a mechanical irritant to the eyes, skin, respiratory tract, and digestive system. • Small silica particles can potentially cause silicosis when inhaled.They can also induce dryness of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes. Therefore, it is recommended that protective gear including respiratory protection, gloves and eye goggles be worn whenever handling aerogels.

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