Why is AEROGEL so expensive?
‘You could take two or three bedroom house and insulate it with Aerogel and you could heat the house with a candle. But eventually the house would become too hot, quoted by Dr. Peter Tsou of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, this statement describes the ingenuity of the Aerogel. The Aerogel or ‘Blue Smoke,, invented by Samuel S. Kistler in 1930’s is the least dense solid ever known to man and is an insulator which is four times more efficient compared to fiberglass and foam. It is made up of 90% (others say 99%) air. It is known for its different names such as ‘frozen smoke’, ‘blue smoke’ and ‘solid smoke’ due to its semi-transparent feature however when touched it feels like an expanded Styrofoam.
It is formed by removing all the liquid from the gel until it becomes filled with air thus where the name originated: air gel. The Aerogel follows the process called ‘supercritical dying’ where the liquid within the gel goes into a supercritical stage, allowing the transition from liquid to gas without shrinking. The process would normally take days to create but due to the further improvements and developments, scientists have compressed the drying time into hours.
Due to its high price, only NASA can afford to use the Aerogel on a regular basis. The Stardust Project also uses Aerogel as a capture media. It collects very small interstellar and cometary particles which have embedded themselves within the porous aerogel. The aerogel is also being used as thermal insulation, acoustical insulation, catalytic supports, optical components and filters.
Here are a few reasons why Aerogel is expensive:
Aerogels consume a lot of energy when produced.
It is being manufactured at limited quantities but as demand grows higher, we may expect the prices to reduce but not too much as the production and raw materials are still somewhat costly.
Since it is more plastic than fiberglass, Aerogels are more permeable to water vapor, flameproof, light and efficient.
In conclusion, Aerogel is expensive because it offers a lot of unique properties and uses. But as of today, several companies are developing aerogel insulation and making them more and more affordable for regular customer consumption.