A Space Souvenir must be good for something!
August 18, 2011 7:17 AM   Subscribe

Fine me a project! A friend visited the Kennedy Space Center a year or so ago, and brought back souvenirs – I now own a 4x4 tile made of the same (silicon? ceramic?) insulating material that protected the Space Shuttle. Is there anything I can do with this other than admire it?

This is a fascinating object that is sitting in a little plastic snap-case on a dusty shelf in the dining room with other things I don’t know what to do with. The thing is, I’m not a collector, a historian, or a sentimentalist, and I’m about to get rid of that dusty shelf. In the little brochure that came with the tile there are images of holding it in an ungloved hand while hitting the tile with a blowtorch (similar to this demo) – it’s a very good insulator. I don’t plan on taking up lampwork beadmaking just to have a workshop in which I use blowtorches, but I can’t think of an application in everyday life that could take any advantage of this. What can I do with a 4” square that blasting heat can’t get through?

The best thing I can think of is a trivet – though it’s only 4x4, it’s not a glazed tile, the surfaces are very rough, and it’s boring white. Surely you Metafilterites can think of something more interesting than that!

(extra details: I do have and use a propane grill. I do cook but I don't do much crazy stuff. We are about to remodel our kitchen. I’m not sure if this material is foodsafe for direct contact. I don’t plan on buying a dozen more of them to make a wall/box/oven/etc.)
posted by aimedwander to Grab Bag (3 answers total)
Why not turn it into a trivet?
posted by parmanparman at 7:23 AM on August 18, 2011

When I was a Georgia Tech student, I had a professor who worked on the design of those tiles. During one of his lectures, he took us into the lab where they were machining/grinding these things. He placed one into a furnace, left it in there until it was glowing red, lifted it out with tongs and asked "who wants to hold it?"

Freaky thing to have a glowing red piece of ceramic in your bare hands and it doesn't even feel warm.

So maybe something for party tricks.
posted by three blind mice at 7:25 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

For temp stuff, in my aerogel tests it was a lot easier to keep heat in than out. Trying to prevent something from getting hot in an oven was next to impossible even with aerogel. So the trivet angle is a good one.

You can get some felt to put on one side so it doesn't scratch surfaces and then use the other side for whatever hot items you're putting on it. I'm wondering if a tile place could glaze it for you or add some design to it. That might open up the options re: food safe.

The one idea I could never find a case for with the aerogel was where something is being chilled and a portion of it needs to be kept warm. That might be an interesting use, if you can think of any situations that require it.

I had one I couldn't do since it was liquids: You can do some cool stuff with mixing different color liquids (think alcohol) by pouring the second liquid on top of the first via an upside down spoon barely submerged, or piece of ice in the first liquid. The tile might work the same way and then you could have cold on bottom and hot on top. Coffee on Wine, etc. The reverse (cold on top of hot) would cause convection, I think, and destroy the layers.
posted by jwells at 12:52 PM on August 18, 2011

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