Aerogels are materials with amazingly good insulating properties. Images of a blowtorch heating the underside of a piece of aerogel with an unharmed ice cube or a pack of matches on top are familiar to many, and show how well the material insulates.
New ways of producing aerogels are being developed, and some aerogels are now hundreds of times stronger than earlier versions. Newer aerogels are also able to be made thinner and far more flexible than were previously available. Not only could there be better building insulation applications with this, but aerogel insulation could also be incorporated into sleeping bags or garments.
Two new methods for making aerogel are being used to create these improved aerogels. "One involved making changes in the innermost architecture of traditional silica aerogels. They used a polymer, a plastic-like material, to reinforce the networks of silica that extend throughout an aerogel's structure. Another involved making aerogels from polyimide, an incredibly strong and heat-resistant polymer, or plastic-like material, and then inserting brace-like cross-links to add further strength to the structure."
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