Silica aerogel is a typical thermal insulation material, which is widely used for improving the thermal performance of onshore and offshore industrial infrastructure and buildings. This material can also be used as a thickener in paints and cosmetics, and a heavy metal filter due to its high surface area and porosity.
Synthesis and application of silica aerogels
Silica aerogels have a unique pore network structure, which can be chemically modified to suit a wide variety of applications. These materials are often used in the electronics industry, as thermal insulation in onshore and offshore facilities and in the aerospace sector.
They are known for their low bulk density (up to 95% of the volume is air), hydrophobicity, low thermal conductivity and optical transparency. Because of these properties, they are considered one of the lightest materials available for insulation applications.
Hybridization of aerogels with multiple components can enhance their properties, especially thermal stability. In the present study, a series of ZrO2/SiO2 hybrid aerogels were synthesized by sol-gel method to investigate their nanopore collapse and shrinkage behavior during heat treatment. The results showed that the mixed ZrO2/SiO2 hybrid silica aerogel had the highest thermal stability among all.
Mechanical reinforcement of silica aerogels is an attractive way to increase their strength and rigidity. To do this, hydroxyl groups on the skeleton of the silica gel can be copolymerized with flexible organic polymers. These polymers can be used to reinforce the pore networks in silica aerogels, increasing their stiffness and mechanical resistance.