New Technology for Making Strong Aerogels of Any Size Paves Way to 10x Lighter Plastics

Researchers at Boston-based Aerogel Technologies, LLC have developed a new technique that, for the first time, enables production of aerogel parts with plastic-like durability in theoretically unlimited dimensions.  This new approach opens the possibility of using aerogels for a wide range of new applications at price points that the company projects will soon be cost-competitive with performance plastics like polycarbonate.

Aerogels are traditionally made using a technique called supercritical drying—a high-pressure process also used in decaffeinating coffee and green dry cleaning performed in expensive stainless steel reactors.  But just as a pizza is limited to the size of an oven, to date aerogels have been limited to size of the supercritical dryers used to make them, meaning parts no bigger than about 60 cm x 60 cm.  This has greatly limited potential applications and has made scaling production extremely costly.  Using their new technique, which the company calls the Stelmakh process, Aerogel Technologies has produced a whopping 90 cm x 90 cm aerogel panel, making it the world’s largest aerogel to date.  The aerogel, made of a proprietary polymer, weighed in at an impressive 7x lighter than typical plastics.  Unlike traditional aerogel production, the new manufacturing technique developed by Aerogel Technologies is performed at ambient conditions eliminating the need for a pressure vessel and enabling production of aerogel parts of theoretically unlimited dimensions.  Aerogel Technologies is already producing 30 cm panels using this technology available for purchase at pre-scale prices through their website BuyAerogel.com.  The company is currently scaling the process to produce panels up to 2 m x 3 m in thicknesses up to 5 cm.

Picture of World's Largest Aerogel

World’s largest aerogel to date made using new drying technology invented by Aerogel Technologies, LLC.

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