What's it like to work with aerogel?
November 27, 2008 2:56 PM   Subscribe

What's it like to work with aerogel?

Aerogel, the superexpensive superinsulation ....

Anyone ever work with aerogel as a building material? I'm wondering what it's like to work with.

Most of the easily available internet background material focuses more on demonstrating its incredible properties, and less on how you actually do stuff with it.

Some videos: LLM, SEAgel, Aspen Aerogel. There do seem to be variations in how it's formed into something usable (rigid vs flexible).

Is the raw material kind of like drywall (i.e., basically stiff, but not completely)? Is it easy to cut? How do you cut it? Does it break easily? Does it bend much? Do tapes and glue adhere to it? Is it used in pure form, or is it kept in a envelope or container to protect it? Are there transparent (as opposed to translucent) ones? How do you attach it to something else - glue or hardware? Etc., etc. ...
posted by coffeefilter to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
We just got some Aspen Aerogel Spaceloft last week for a research project at work. It is a blanket type that comes on a five-foot roll. It looks like thick felt and can be cut with scissors. It leaves a weird, slippery, talc-y residue on your hands. I don't have any more info than that.
posted by fundip at 4:01 PM on November 27, 2008

Jwells posted some kitchen experiments over on projects. Hopefully that can give you some insight.
posted by lilkeith07 at 4:18 PM on November 27, 2008

The whole time I was working with it I couldn't believe how much it reminded me of that hard pink insulation. It's a lot like that. Very brittle (it's glass!). The building material that is hard (from Cabot, I think) looks like compressed granules, so that might be less brittle, and hence bendable. It depends on how they're binding them together.

Cutting is difficult, but the stuff varies A LOT by supplier. So ask them. They've probably made it specifically so it can be cut easily. The NASA stuff broke easily. "Cutting" (as in with a knife) involved putting pressure on it, which just made it shatter. I had to think of it more like "controlled erosion". I'd be curious to see what a very finely toothed saw would do to it as that's the right direction, if you go really slow.

Same thing goes for tape and glue - ask the supplier. It's thermal properties are because of the tiny pores (2nd paragraph before #3) it is made of. Use glue and the pores could fill and lower the thermal advantage.

Look for some that is formulated to repel water. Mine wasn't and it was a pain. Every time I touched it I got dry spots on my fingers.

Also, it's supposed to be non toxic but I can't imagine getting any in your lungs, even the dust, would be a good thing.
posted by jwells at 8:10 PM on November 27, 2008

Thanks, thanks, and thanks. Very, very interesting.
posted by coffeefilter at 10:21 PM on November 27, 2008

united nuclear sells it
posted by rmd1023 at 1:07 AM on November 28, 2008

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