Mechanically Strong Lightweight Materials for Aerospace Applications (X-Aerogels)


The X-Aerogel is a new NASA-developed strong lightweight material made by reacting the mesoporous surfaces of 3-D networks of inorganic nanoparticles with polymeric crosslinkers. Since the relative amount of the crosslinker and the backbone are comparable, X-Aerogels can be viewed either as aerogels modified by templated accumulation of polymer on the skeletal nanoparticles, or as nanoporous polymers made by templated casting of polymeric precursors on a nanostructured framework. the most striking feature of X-Aerogels is that for a nominal 3-fold increase in density (still a ultralightweight material), the mechanical strength can be up to 300 times higher than the strength of the underlying native aerogel. Thus, X-Aerogels combine a multiple of the specific compressive strength of steel, with the thermal conductivity of styrofoam. X-Aerogels have been demonstrated with several polymers such as polyurethanes/polyureas, epoxies and polyolefms, while crosslinking of -35 different oxide aerogels yields a wide variety of dimensionally stable, porous lightweight materials with interesting structural, magnetic and optical properties. X-Aerogels are evaluated for cryogenic rocket fuel storage tanks and for Advanced EVA suits, where they will play the dual role of the thermal insulator/structural material. Along the same lines, major impact is also expected by the use of X-Aerogels in structural components/thermal protection for small satellites, spacecrafts, planetary vehicles and habitats.

Meeting Name

56th International Astronautical Congress (2005, Fukuoka, Japan)



Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

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