The term aerogel has been increasing in recent years, and people’s cognition of aerogels is also deepening. Since absolutely ignorant of it and gradually recognized its superiority, especially in the 13th Five-Year plan, we emphasized the role of new material strategy, and aerogels have become the focus of attention in advanced new materials.
At present, the research work of aerogels in China is mainly concentrated on the Bohr Institute of solid physics, Tongji University, National University of Defense Technology, Tsinghua University, Zhejiang University, and so on. At the same time, the professional degree of our universities in aerogel research field and the ability of domestic enterprises to reduce the production cost of aerogels are constantly strengthened, and they are beginning to march to the advanced level of the world and step into the advanced ranks of the world.
In 1931, Kistler of Stanford University made aerogels from hydrolyzed water glass. However, because of the high production cost, it has not received widespread attention. In 1980s, some European physicists began to study this new material. In 1985, the Wuerzburg University Physics Institute organized the first International Conference on aerogels. In the early 1990s, the United States began to study aerogels.
Tongji University began its research on aerogels in 1990s, which is the earliest Research Institute of aerogels in China. Aerogels are made up of more than 90% of the air and less than 10% of the solid. Aerogel is one of the world’s least dense solids with a density of only 3 kg per cubic meter. The special nanopores and network structures of aerogels exhibit many excellent physical and chemical properties and functions. Ni Xingyuan introduced, “Our Institute of solid physics of Tongji University first began to study the application of the physical properties of aerogels. At present, the research on the function of aerogels is mostly an extension of physical function. At present, the research on aerogels in Tongji University focuses on thermal, optical, electrical, acoustic and mechanical aspects, such as explosion-proof, impact resistant, and so on. In terms of materials, we have studied extensively, and we have studied inorganic aerogels, organic aerogels and composite aerogels. In addition to the most common silicon aerogels, there are carbon systems, sulfur systems, metal oxide systems, metal systems, and so on. Tongji University has been involved in most of these aspects.
Aerogels are widely used in aerospace and military fields in the earliest applications. Because of some characteristics of aerogels, they are irreplaceable materials in space exploration. The Russian “peace” space station and the American Mars Pathfinder detectors are all used for insulation. Aerogels are widely used in military, petrochemical, power, metallurgy, construction, clothing and other fields, especially as an important substitute for traditional thermal insulation materials.
Thermal insulation is currently a hot topic in aerogel application development. When the aerogel is subjected to flame injection at more than 1000 degrees Celsius, the back can still be touched by hand. This is due to the very low thermal conductivity and refractive index of aerogels, and its insulation capacity is several times better than that of the best fiberglass.
At present, many enterprises in China are engaged in the research and popularization of aerogels, but aerogels have not been widely applied in the field of building materials. The main reason is that the price of aerogel felt is relatively high compared with the existing thermal insulation materials. Therefore, if there is no special requirement in the field of architecture, the designers and developers of buildings will not consider using aerogel felt as insulation material.
Compared with other thermal insulation materials, aerogels have comparable advantages over other materials. Compared with other traditional thermal insulation materials, aerogel felt has lower thermal conductivity and better thermal insulation performance than other materials. Moreover, under the same environmental conditions, the thermal insulation performance is better, and the energy consumption of thermal insulation or thermal insulation is significantly reduced. From the point of view of building structure, aerogel felt will be more light and can expand a lot of space in the construction area. At the same time, because of the lighter product, the construction process can reduce the concerns about building bearing capacity. At the same time, aerogel composite products have their own excellent performance in various aspects such as noise insulation, fire prevention, moisture protection and so on. Generally speaking, the cost performance of aerogel composite products is much higher than other insulation materials. Ni Xingyuan pointed out that at present, in terms of architectural design and building development, people do not know enough about aerogel composite products, and the next step is to strengthen publicity and promotion work in the field of building materials.
Of course, from aerogel manufacturers, we should consider further reducing their production costs, and tap the potential of reducing the cost of raw materials for aerogel production and adjusting the production process of composite aerogels. In addition, if aerogel products are produced on a large scale, their production costs will be further reduced. Aerogels will be widely applied in the field of architecture in the wake of people’s awareness and reduced product costs.
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