A document discusses a new, simplified method for cross-linking silica and other oxide aerogels, with a polymeric material to increase strength of such materials without adversely affecting porosity or low density. The usual process is long and arduous, requiring multiple washing and soaking steps to infiltrate oxide with the polymer precursor after gelation. Additionally, diffusion problems can result in aerogel monoliths that are not uniformly cross-linked.
This innovation introduces the polymer precursor into the sol before gelation either as an agent, which co-reacts with the oxide gel, or as soluble polymer precursors, which do not interact with the oxide gel in any way. Subsequent exposure to heat, light, catalyst or other method of promoting polymerization causes cross-linking without any additional infiltration steps.
The resulting aerogel monolith is more uniform because this process does not suffer from diffusion issues that previous methods have. Also, in instances where complete polymerization requires a balanced stoichiometry, this requirement is more easily met.
This work was done by Mary Ann B. Meador and Lynn A. Capadona of Glenn Research Center.
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, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18042.