Friday, February 15, 2013


Aerogels are ultralight, low-density, nanoporous materials that can be made from inorganic (such as silica and alumina), organic (polyimide and carbon), or hybrid materials (ormosil).

Aerogels are characterized by ultrafine cell size and open-cell structure. In fact, they are formed by interconnected polymeric-type chains that create continuous porosity. Pore sizes are generally below 100 nanometers (nm) and aerogel particle sizes are typically below 20 nm.


There is no clear distinction between the terms aerogels and xerogels in scientific literature. Historically, the term xerogels has been used to indicate materials characterized by a fairly high level of porosity (typically greater than 10% by volume) obtained by drying a gel at atmospheric pressure. Aerogels, instead, have been associated with materials having very high porosity (typically greater than 50%) obtainable only by drying under supercritical conditions.

Due to advances in sol-gel technology and material science in the last decade, however, it is also now possible to produce very porous structures at atmospheric pressure.

In this study, BCC will use the term aerogels to indicate all those materials that exhibit porosity equal to or greater than 50% by volume, regardless of the drying process. In fact, all of the companies evaluated for this study are producing aerogels with porosity greater than 90%.

A key objective of this study is to detail the major contributing factors affecting market penetration of aerogels while outlining future technological and market trends.

A sizable portion of the various research-and-development activities performed by public institutions and private organizations during the past four years has been aimed at expanding the fields of application for aerogels.

BCC has identified nine industrial sectors in which aerogels find current and potential application:

  • Thermal and acoustic insulation
  • Electronics
  • Chemical/environmental
  • Medical/biological/pharmaceutical/personal care
  • Sensors and instrumentation
  • Energy
  • Aerospace and space exploration
  • Consumer
  • Defense.

A number of factors indicate that demand for aerogel products will remain strong during the next five years. They include industry and technological trends such as increasing demand for high-performance materials for industrial insulation, renewed growth of the real estate market, expansion of the green-building market, stricter environmental and energy-saving regulations, greater diffusion of thermal packaging products within the healthcare industry, and sustained growth of various energy devices such as supercapacitors, fuel cells, and solar collectors.

The high unit prices of aerogels remains a major drawback, however, although unit prices are expected to continue dropping during the next five years. This is due to the arrival of innovative companies that adopt less costly manufacturing processes that operate under ambient pressure (rather than being based on supercritical drying). Aerogel prices are expected to remain very high overall compared to alternative products and this factor will limit widespread use of these materials.

The above is an extract from the BCC Research report, Aerogels (AVM052C). To download the complimentary first chapter, please click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Bookmark and Share