Polymer Engineering Faculty Research


Tailoring Mechanical Properties of Aerogels for Aerospace Applications

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2011


Silica aerogels are highly porous solid materials consisting of three-dimensional networks of silica particles and are typically obtained by removing the liquid in silica gels under supercritical conditions. Several unique attributes such as extremely low thermal conductivity and low density make silica aerogels excellent candidates in the quest for thermal insulation materials used in space missions. However, native silica aerogels are fragile at relatively low stresses. More durable aerogels with higher strength and stiffness are obtained by proper selection of silane precursors and by reinforcement with polymers. This paper first presents a brief review of the literature on methods of silica aerogel reinforcement and then discusses our recent activities in improving not only the strength but also the elastic response of polymer-reinforced silica aerogels. Several alkyl-linked bis-silanes were used in promoting flexibility of the silica networks in conjunction with polymer reinforcement by epoxy.



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