Research has shown that including up to 5 percent w/w carbon nanofibers in a silica backbone of polymer crosslinked aerogels improves its strength, tripling compressive modulus and increasing tensile stress-at-break fivefold with no increase in density or decrease in porosity. In addition, the initial silica hydrogels, which are produced as a first step in manufacturing the aerogels, can be quite fragile and difficult to handle before cross-linking. The addition of the carbon nanofiber also improves the strength of the initial hydrogels before cross-linking, improving the manufacturing process. This can also be extended to other oxide aerogels, such as alumina or aluminosilicates, and other nanofiber types, such as silicon carbide.

This work was done by Mary Ann B. Meador, Lynn A. Capadona, Frances Hurwitz, and Stephanie L.Vivod of Glenn Research Center and Max Lake of Applied Sciences, Inc. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at under the Manufacturing & Prototyping category.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to

NASA Glenn Research Center
Innovative Partnerships Office
Attn: Steve Fedor
Mail Stop 4–8
21000 Brookpark Road
Ohio 44135.

Refer to LEW-18380-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2010 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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