Researchers from UCLA along with eight different research institutes created exceptionally lightweight and highly durable ceramic aerogel. Xiangfeng Duan, professor of biochemistry and chemistry at UCLA led the research. The material developed can find its application in insulating spacecraft as it can resist intense heat. Further, it can withstand severe temperature changes experienced during space missions.
Structural Changes to Increase Durability of Ceramic Aerogel
Around 1990s, NASA used ceramic aerogels for insulating industrial equipment and scientific equipment for its Mars rover missions. Conversely, this new version is more durable even after repeated temperature spikes and exposure to extreme heat. It is unusually elastic due to its exceptional atomic composition and microscopic structure.
Though the weight of ceramic aerogel is 99% air, it is mostly solid and structurally strong. It can consist of different types of materials, such as metal oxides, carbon or ceramics. Moreover, while comparing it with other insulators, ceramic-based aerogels have greater efficiency in blocking extreme temperature. They also have high resistance to corrosion,fire, and ultralow density.
On other hand, it is likely that ceramic aerogels may suffer fracture after repeated exposure to extreme heat or sudden temperature changes. This is a point of concern as both these situation occur commonly during space travel. They are also highly brittle in nature.