Ultra-light ceramic aerogel stands up to intense temperature swings

Date: 2019-08-21
Views: 432

Ultra-light ceramic aerogel stands up to intense temperature swings

Samples of the new ceramic aerogel, which is incredibly lightweight and can withstand intense heat fluctuations(Credit: Oszie Tarula/UCLA)

Ceramic aerogels have been protecting industrial equipment and space-bound scientific instruments for decades, thanks to their incredible lightness and ability to withstand intense heat. The problem is they can be pretty brittle. Now, a team led by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has developed a new ceramic aerogel that's far hardier and more flexible, even after repeated exposure to wild temperature swings.

Aerogels are strong, solid structures that are up to 99 percent air by volume, which of course makes them incredibly lightweight. They can be made of many different types of materials, but ceramics are particularly handy as thermal insulators. On the flipside though, extended cycles of heating and cooling can end up fracturing the material.

In this case, the researchers made their aerogel out of thin layers of the ceramic material boron nitride, with its atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. To test out how well it performed, the team put samples of the stuff in a chamber and fluctuated the temperature between -198° C and 900° C (-324° F and 1,652° F), with just a few seconds between each extreme. The material was also left in a chamber heated to 1,400° C (2,552° F) for a week. Altogether it was found to lose only one percent of its mechanical strength.

Ultra-light ceramic aerogel stands up to intense temperature swings

According to the team, the key to the ceramic aerogel's strength is its unique architecture. Unlike most ceramics which expand when heated, the aerogel contracts instead, and it does so in a strange way. If you imagine pressing down on the top of a tennis ball, the sides would bulge outwards – but squeezing this aerogel, the sides would also push themselves inwards. The stuff can fully bounce back after being compressed to just five percent of its original volume, while other aerogels can't go any lower than 20 percent.

The team says that this aerogel, as well as others made using the same process, could lead to a new class of ultra-strong, ultra-light materials.

'Those materials could be useful for thermal insulation in spacecraft, automobiles or other specialized equipment,' says Xiangfeng Duan lead researcher on the project. 'They could also be useful for thermal energy storage, catalysis or filtration.'


News / Recommended news More
2020 - 07 - 02
A Bochum-based team has developed a new process for zinc oxide layers that can be used for nitrogen oxide sensors as well as protection layer on plastic.The application of zinc oxide layers in industry is manifold and ranges from the protection of degradable goods to the detection of toxic nitrogen oxide gas. Such layers can be deposited by atomic layer deposition (ALD) which employs typically che...
2020 - 07 - 02
Grain boundaries in ceramics may not be as chemically stable as previously thought. So say researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US who have found that carbon atoms collect or segregate at the boundaries of silicon carbide – a technologically important ceramic – when the material is exposed to ionizing radiation. The result could help improve our understanding of ceramics in ge...
2020 - 06 - 24
Waste heat is all around you. On a small scale, if your phone or laptop feels warm, that's because some of the energy powering the device is being transformed into unwanted heat.On a larger scale, electric grids, such as high power lines, lose over 5% of their energy in the process of transmission. In an electric power industry that generated more than US$400 billion in 2018, that's a tremendous a...
2020 - 06 - 17
When most people think of ceramics, they might envision their favorite mug or a flowerpot. But modern technology is full of advanced ceramics, from silicon solar panels to ceramic superconductors and biomedical implants.Many of those advanced polycrystalline ceramics are combinations of crystalline grains which, at the microscopic level, resemble a stone fence held together with limestone mortar. ...
Uniris Exhibition Shanghai Co., Ltd.
Shanghai Branch
Tel: 4000 778 909

Guangzhou Branch
Tel: 020-8327 6389

IACE CHINA Official Website