Tomorrow’s Discoveries: Thinner, Lighter, Stronger
Space travel is a complex proposition, the inhospitable environment of space means that space craft need be well insulated, yet strong and light. This presents a problem, as traditional solutions to thermally insulating structures do not meet these stringent criteria.
For this reason NASA scientists are investigating aerogel technology that could radically impact the way that we approach this problem. The results may trickle down into everyday items such as homes, refrigerators, or coffee mugs.
This fascinating technology is one of the lightest solids known to mankind. And, amazingly, the material is simply a gel – like the delicious snack of your childhood – that has had the liquid extracted. Leaving a solid, highly porous structure. Yet, the pores are so small, that air molecules cannot easily move through them. The result is that they are highly efficient thermal insulators.
To learn more about aerogels, redOrbit traveled to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, to see first hand how this material is fabricated and that is in store for the future.