Nano-Encapsulated Aerogels (MSC-23563)
Aerogel is the lightest and lowest-density solid known to exist, composed of up to 99.8 percent air. However, it can hold 500 to 4,000 times its weight in applied force. Aerogel is 39 percent more insulating than the best fiberglass insulation, but without proper care it can break or crumble if handled roughly. Coating the aerogel would protect it from disintegrating as well as shield it from the hazards of humidity or other gases, which can bind to the substance and change its properties.
The coating process would be done on a microscopic level and the polymer would permeate the aerogel, allowing it to remain intact even if the product breaks - alleviating environmental concerns about the scattering of particles. The goal of any encapsulation process is to maintain most of the porosity and most of the insulation value of the aerogel. This is possible because the filaments of the aerogel network, rather than a large block of the material, would be individually coated. In fact, the coating process is expected to greatly increase the material's strength in compression and tension and its flexibility.
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