The Blog

Welcome to Open Source Aerogel

What, you may ask, is aerogel? Aerogels are the world's lightest solid materials, composed of up to 99.98% air by volume. Aerogels are a diverse class of amazing materials with properties unlike anything else. Transparent superinsulating silica aerogels exhibit the lowest thermal conductivity of any solid known. Ultrahigh surface area carbon aerogels power today's fast-charging supercapacitors. And ultrastrong, bendable x-aerogels are the lowest-density structural materials ever developed.

Welcome to Here you will find an encyclopedic reference about aerogels, how-to guides for making aerogels and building a do-it-yourself supercritical dryer, the world's most comprehensive aerogel image gallery, a podcast with the world's leading aerogel scientists, and more.

Aerogel's not just for NASA anymore. Welcome to open-source nanotech.

At Last–Large, Strong Aerogel Panels are Commercially Available

People have been hearing about mechanically strong aerogels such as x-aerogels and strong organic aerogels like polyimide aerogels along with all of their promise for use as ultralightweight structures, dust-free superinsulation, and science-fiction-y applications for some time now.   Small samples of strong aerogels have been commercially available for the past couple years, but nothing much bigger than the size of a playing card, or the back panel of a Google Nexus 7 tablet, meaning there has not been a whole lot of movement using these materials for improving building efficiency, making ultralight cars, or building what we all really care about deep down inside, flying cars and hoverboards–applications where ultralight materials could have a significant on reducing carbon dioxide emissions and saving fuel costs.

One-foot (30-cm) Airloy X103 strong aerogel panel balancing a PTFE plastic tile of the same mass. Image courtesy Aerogel Technologies.

Well good news.  Aerogel Technologies today announced that they are now manufacturing large (one-foot, 30-cm) panels on its new pilot line, and that these panels are soon to be followed by even larger panels.  The company plans to market these materials as lightweight replacements for plastics for use anywhere weight and cost are coupled, for example, in cars, planes, and refrigerated trucks.

Strong aerogel panels made of Airloy X103, a high-strength organic aerogel that is stable to about 80°C, are being made available on  Other formulations including new high-temperature Airloy X114 are soon to follow.

Visit to buy large Airloy panels now.

Stephen Steiner | August 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »

New High-Temperature Strong Aerogels Commercially Available

Aerogel Technologies has released a new high-temperature, high-strength machinable aerogel material called Airloy X114 which is stable up to 300°C and has the strength and durability of a plastic but is three times lighter.  They’re apparently good at sound damping too.  Aerogel Technologies says applications include insulating engine compartments, ovens,, and rocket parts.  Samples of Airloy X114 are available for purchase on

Airloy X114 high-temperature strong aerogel from Aerogel Technologies goes up to 300°C, is strong like a plastic, and three times lighter than plastic.

Stephen Steiner | August 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »

Aerogel Jacket Kickstarter Campaign

The team at Lukla Apparel has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for their new aerogel jackets.  Lighter and less bulky than traditional aerogel jackets, their Endeavor jacket was designed for back-country skiing, which has high technical demands and in which people need to keep warm and comfortable for long periods of time.  I had the chance to talk with the Lukla team recently and they’ve done some great work looking at how to integrate aerogel blankets into an aerogel jacket while still making it comfortable, not dusty, and washable.  Check out their Kickstarter campaign and help them raise $100,000.

Stephen Steiner | March 9th, 2015 | No Comments »

When Stardust Launched NASA Had No Way to Extract Particles from Aerogel

Amusing story on–when NASA launched its Stardust probe, the satellite that followed comet Wild-2 (say “Vilt-Too”) and captured its comet dust with a “catcher’s mitt” made of aerogel, they had no way to extract the comet particles from the aerogel.  Silica aerogels like the ones used on the Stardust probe are extremely brittle and machining it using normal techniques causes it to fracture unpredictably.  I can corroborate this–at one point before Stardust returned, NASA reached out to me personally (as they did many aerogel researchers) to ask if I had any experience cutting aerogels!  All’s well that ends well–the ingenious team at NASA developed a method using a high-frequency vibrating microscopic needle to extract the comet particles from the aerogel in time to make use of the samples that were returned, making Stardust one of the most successful sample return missions of all time.

We had the chance to sit down for a podcast several years ago with the mission’s PI, NASA JPL’s Dr. Peter Tsou.  Listen to the amazing story of Stardust here.

Stephen Steiner | August 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Update on Aspen Aerogels IPO

Just a quick update from NYSE-Euronext on the Aspen Aerogels IPO–looks like Aspen Aerogels is planning on raising $115M, offering 6.7M shares at a price of $14-$16/share.

Read more about it here.


Stephen Steiner | June 6th, 2014 | No Comments »

Google Nexus 7 Body Made from Aerogel

For everyone who still thinks aerogels are blue and brittle, think again!  The engineers at Aerogel Technologies have recently released a video of an ultralight Google Nexus 7 body made out of a mechanically strong aerogel called Airloy X103-H.  In the video, they compare the back panel of the Nexus 7, composed of ABS/PC composite (that’s acrylonitrile butadiene styrene/polycarbonate composite, the standard non-descript plastic used to make laptop bodies and other consumer electronics) weighing in at 42 g, and the same panel made out of Airloy X103-H, weighing in at only 18 g. And this isn’t 1980’s aerogel either–it’s strong, somewhat flexible, and feels like plastic.  Take a look!

Stephen Steiner | June 6th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

Aspen Aerogels Files for IPO

Exciting news in the aerogel industry! Aspen Aerogels, the world’s leading manufacturer of aerogel insulation, has filed for an initial public offering of its common stock.  Aspen, which expects to trade under the stock symbol “ASPN” on the New York Stock Exchange, is looking to raise a maximum of $86.25M with this initial offering.  Aspen’s aerogel blankets are unparalleled in the industry and are widely recognized as the world’s best thermal insulation next to vacuum insulating panels, however unlike VIPs Aspen’s blankets aren’t susceptible to popping, are flexible, and can be easily cut and sewn.  Aspen’s products include Pyrogel XT-E, a flexible high-temperature insulating blanket used to insulate pipelines in refineries, Cryogel Z, a superinsulating blanket used for cryogenic tanks, and Spaceloft, a superinsulating blanket used for building and construction.   Spaceloft, for example, has an R-value greater than 9.5 per inch, making it over three times better insulating per unit thickness than fiberglass and almost two times better insulating than polyurethane foam. This isn’t the first time Aspen’s filed for an IPO.  Aspen originally filed for an IPO on June 24, 2011 with the intent of raising $115M on the NASDAQ exchange, later retracted the filing, possibly due to an unfortunate coincident global downturn in construction.  However, with the economy recovering and Aspen’s products being increasingly adopted, now is the perfect time for an Aspen IPO.  Aspen reports that 24 of the world’s top 25 refineries use their products, an economic case that is not hard to understand.  Incredibly, today only 20% of pipelines in refineries are insulated–in an industry where energy = $ this is a pretty astounding figure!  The reason being, however, is that traditional insulation is very difficult to install and maintain.  Fiberglass, for example, entrains moisture underneath causing corrosion of the underlying pipe (corrosion under insulation or CUI) and can be easily damaged when walked on.  Aspen’s products are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water, eliminating CUI.  Additionally, their materials are quite sturdy and resistant to compression, and, unlike foams, don’t crush and lose their insulating ability when walked on.

Aspen won’t be the only public company manufacturing aerogels–Cabot Corporation (NYSE:CBT) also manufactures aerogel materials in both particle and insulating blanket form.  Cabot’s and Aspen’s products are quite different, however, and provide complementary functions for different applications.  Regardless, with Aspen joining the ranks of other publicly-traded companies, it is an exciting time for the commercialization of aerogel.

Read the S-1 filing hereTry Aspen’s products out yourself here.

Stephen Steiner | April 28th, 2014 | No Comments »

Valentine Aerogels!

The team at Aerogel Technologies has come up with a new monolithic aerogel product that integrates optically-active materials into an aerogel architecture, demonstrates aerogel shape control, and attracts the opposite sex all in the same material envelope.  Indeed, pink-heart shaped aerogels are now available on

Although these aerogels are silica-based, you can make colorful aerogels of your own by following the procedure for lanthanide oxide aerogels under the Make section here on



Stephen Steiner | January 30th, 2013 | Comments Off on Valentine Aerogels!

Amazing New Dust-Free High-Temperature Aerogel Blanket

Cabot Aerogel has just released a new dust-free high-temperature superinsulating aerogel blanket called Aeroclad™.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with aerogel blankets, they are generally made by combining silica aerogel (which is brittle but superinsulating) with fibers (which are flexible) to make a composite that has the superinsulating advantages of silica aerogel but unlike native silica aerogels, can be flexed, rolled, cut, and sewn.  Previously, there were only two types of blanket materials in town—Aspen Aerogels’ blankets (Spaceloft, Cryogel, and Pyrogel), made by casting a silica aerogel coating onto fibrous inorganic (for example, fiberglass) battings, and Cabot Aerogel’s blanket (Thermal Wrap), made by fusing polymer fibers and aerogel particles together in a “bird’s nest” setup.  Aspen’s materials have the advantages of high-temperature stability, but tend to kick up dust when handled aggressively (which while completely safe, causes trouble for some applications).  Cabot’s Thermal Wrap, on the other hand, is essentially dust-free, but has the minor side effect of melting above 180°C  (350°F).  Not so good for those blowtorch experiments.

Cabot’s new Aeroclad blanket, however, combines the best of both worlds—by fusing aerogel particles and inorganic fibers together into a composite, Aeroclad is dust-free and high-temperature stable.  According to Cabot, Aeroclad is two times better insulating that current insulation products used in industry, including fiberglass, mineral wool, and calcium silicate.

A major application for the new Aeroclad blanket will be in refineries, where shockingly less than 20% of all pipes are insulated.  For an industry where energy = $, that’s a pretty good indication that insulating pipes must really suck if they don’t do it more than they do.  And it does suck.  Current insulating materials trap moisture underneath, causing the pipe to slowly corrode over time—a dastardly, expensive problem called corrosion under insulation, or CUI.  Fortunately, Aeroclad is also hydrophobic, meaning it repels water and protects pipes from corroding.

“The Cabot Aeroclad blanket delivers the unparalleled performance and benefits of an aerogel product while addressing a clear market need for dust free and superior corrosion performance,” says Cabot’s Matthew Greenfield, commercial manager, Energy and Industrial, Cabot Aerogel. “Cabot has built a reputation in the industry for its unmatched customer service both in the field and in insulation product design to address specific application needs. We are actively working with several partners to commercialize this product to meet the evolving requirements and demands of the global industry.”

Cool stuff Cabot!  Or should we say hot stuff?  (Running out of heat-related puns…)

Stephen Steiner | January 10th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Aerogel Saves Chocolate from Blowtorch!

A new video from Aerogel Technologies demonstrating the superinsulating properties of silica aerogel–a 2″x3″ silica aerogel tile protects a Hershey’s® Kiss® from the heat of a >700°C (1300°F) blowtorch!  Watch until the end when the heat is turned up all the way and melts through the aerogel, lighting the chocolate on fire!

Watch it here:

Stephen Steiner | September 13th, 2012 | Comments Off on Aerogel Saves Chocolate from Blowtorch!