By The Financial District
Aerogel Is The Best Insulator But Costs Too Much
It has insulated components on rovers sent to Mars, extracted toxic contaminants from water, and some even speculate that the US military has put it inside nuclear warheads.
Photo Insert: Nicknames for aerogel include "frozen smoke" and in pictures, it can look like an ethereal half-gas, half-solid slice of matter.
But it could be just the thing for your bay windows, Chris Baraniuk reported for BBC News.
Aerogel is often described as the most effective insulating material known to science. While aerogel strips or panels have been used in buildings for decades, this type of insulation remains a little-known and rather expensive option for those aiming to reduce heat loss from their homes.
Given that British houses are generally pretty poorly insulated, yet we live in an age when energy efficiency is paramount, could aerogel be about to find a bigger niche in the construction and retrofit industries?
In the late 1920s or early 1930s - no one is quite sure - two chemical engineers in the US came up with a way of removing liquid from a silica gel substance while leaving behind an ultralight, highly porous structure that one of the engineers, Steven Kistler, christened aerogel.
Imagine a foam but an extraordinarily low-density foam riddled with microscopic pores - some aerogels are around 99% air. Nicknames for aerogel include "frozen smoke" and in pictures, it can look like an ethereal half-gas, half-solid slice of matter.
But the intricate structure and large volume of air inside it mean that aerogel is an amazingly good insulator. Yet, it costs so much and makes homeowners squirm.
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