Can a new type of transparent gel, made from readily-available beer waste, help engineers build greenhouses on Mars?
CU Boulder physicists have developed an insulating gel that they say could coat the windows of habitats in space, allowing the settlers inside to trap and store energy from the sun—much like a greenhouse stays warm during the winter. And unlike similar products on the market, the material is mostly see-through.
“Transparency is an enabling feature because you can use this gel in windows, and you could use it in extraterrestrial habitats,” said Ivan Smalyukh, a professor in the Department of Physics. “You could harvest sunlight through that thermally insulating material and store the energy inside, protecting yourself from those big oscillations in temperature that you have on Mars or on the moon.”
The defining feature of aerogels, as their name suggests, is air, Smalyukh explained. By weight, these thin films are 90 percent gas. Engineers achieve this feather weight by generating crisscrossing patterns of solid material that trap air inside billions of tiny pores, similar to the bubbles in bubble wrap. It’s that trapping capacity that makes them such good insulators.
“You create a very tortuous network of these nanoparticles that link together in the aerogel, preventing the heat from going through,” Smalyukh said.
Beer to windows
That same network, however, tends to scatter light, making aerogels look cloudy and explaining why some engineers call them “frozen smoke.”
To make a more translucent gel, Smalyukh and his colleagues begin with the common plant sugar cellulose. By carefully controlling how cellulose molecules link up, the team is able to orient them into a lattice-like pattern.
That pattern is so uniform, he said, that it allows light to pass through unbothered, giving the gel its transparent appearance.
Problem solved. In order to find a ready supply of cellulose for their space-age material, the researchers turned to a substance with humble beginnings: a refreshing IPA.
Unused beer wort, or waste liquid produced during the brewing process, can make cellulose when scientists add in specialized bacteria. The researchers began driving to breweries across the Boulder area to collect tubs of unwanted liquid from beer-makers.
“So not only are we recycling and saving this valuable material from entering the landfill, but we’re also producing this raw material cheaply,” said Andrew Hess, a Ph.D. student in physics at CU Boulder.
Currently, it takes the team about two weeks to culture the cellulose, but the rest of the process of making the aerogel moves quickly. The final product of the team’s efforts is a thin, flexible film that is roughly 100 times lighter than glass. This gel is so resistant to heat that you could put a strip of it on your hand and light a fire on top—without feeling a thing.
Mars to Antarctica
Receive an email update when we add a new AEROGEL article.
The Latest on: Aerogel
via Google News
The Latest on: Aerogel
- Subnautica: How to Get Aerogel on December 19, 2018 at 2:56 am
Surviving on an alien planet is tough, especially with so many dangerous creatures around. You’ll need to collect tons of materials to craft new items and survive the harsh ocean in Subnauticca. […]
- NASA-inspired Aerogel Jacket Reaches its Initial Funding Goal on KickStarter within Three Days on December 17, 2018 at 1:29 pm
After reaching its initial goal of $25,000 in only three days, Supield Inc. announced to extend its product line by adding aerogel insulated gloves if it doubles the funding goal by raising $ ... […]
- Global Aerogel Market to Witness a Perspective CAGR of 31.80% by 2026 on December 14, 2018 at 4:58 am
New York, NY -- (SBWIRE) -- 12/14/2018 -- The global Aerogel Market was assessed at US$ 512.9 Mn in 2016, growing at a CAGR of 31.80% during the forecast period 2017-2026 according to the market resea... […]
- Silica Aerogel market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 30% during the forecast period 2016-2024 illuminated by new report on December 13, 2018 at 2:13 pm
Aerogel is a lightweight nanostructure material in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with gas. Silica aerogel is the most common type of aerogel, enjoying the largest market shar... […]
- New Kistler Aerogel Jacket, Inspired by NASA, Provides Extremely Lightweight Warmth on December 13, 2018 at 12:08 pm
Supield Inc. has pioneered an aerogel single-layer composite, which enables the application of aerogel within clothes production much more efficiently SAN JOSE, Calif., Dec. 13, 2018 /PRNewswire ... […]
- Worldwide Subsea Thermal Insulation Materials Markets, 2018-2023: Analysis on Polyurethane, Polypropylene, Silicone Rubber, Epoxy and Aerogel on December 13, 2018 at 7:42 am
The "Subsea Thermal Insulation Materials Market By Type (Polyurethane, Polypropylene, Silicone Rubber, Epoxy, Aerogel), Application (Pipe-in-Pipe, Pipe Cover, Equipment, Field Joints), and Region - Gl... […]
- Silicon Dioxide Aerogel market comparison by types, application and by regions published by leading research firm on December 13, 2018 at 1:54 am
Global Silicon Dioxide Aerogel Market Research Report 2018 contains historic data that spans 2013 to 2017, and then continues to forecast to 2025. That makes this report so invaluable, resources, for ... […]
- Aerogel Market Size by Raw Material | Silica, Alumina, and Carbon | By Form Blanket, Panel, Block and Forecasts by 2025 on December 10, 2018 at 12:40 pm
The Aerogel Market is valued at $ 800 Mn as on 2017 and is likely to reach $ 3,125 Mn by the end of 2023, growing at a CAGR of 25%. In the coming years, aerogel market is expected to grow bolstered by ... […]
- Aerogels Market to Expand With a CAGR of 18.7% due to Growing Need for Lightweight Vehicles - TMR on December 10, 2018 at 4:48 am
However, the market is dominated by the handful of the companies. Some of the prominent players operating in the market are Aspen Aerogels, Inc., Aerogel Technologies, LLC, Cabot Corporation, and Surn... […]
via Bing News