Aerogels with gradients in density have been produced in experiments, as part of an effort to develop materials that will be used in outer space to capture particles traveling at high speeds for the STARDUST mission.

On Earth, aerogels with gradients of density could be used as lightweight materials with tailorable optical, acoustical, thermal, catalyst-support, or microelectronic-packaging properties. In addition to extremely low (and now optionally spatially varying) densities, aerogels have unique combinations of properties that make them economically competitive with other materials that would otherwise be used in the same applications.

One experimental aerogel exhibited a gradient of density from 5 to 50 mg/cm3. Depending on the intended application, the gradient of density in an aerogel component could be tailored to obtain the desired corresponding gradient in the optical or acoustical index of refraction, optical or acoustical attenuation, permittivity, thermal conductivity, or other property or properties of interest.

This work was done by Steven Jones and Peter Tsou of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory . For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp  under the Materials category. NPO-20485


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Aerogels With Gradients of Density

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This article first appeared in the May, 2000 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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