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turlian

WATCH: This Is What The World's Lowest-Density Solid Sounds Like

BEC CREW
26 FEBRUARY 2015

You know, the one thing I hadn't thought about when it comes to aerogel is what it might sound like. In fact, if I had to guess what it sounded like, I would have said "not much", because this hologram-like subject is almost entirely made of gas. But thanks to the video above, uploaded by YouTuber turlian, we now know that aerogel sounds like, a piece of ceramic? Frosted glass?

 

First developed in the 1930s, aerogel is a synthetic material that's translucent but solid; dry and rigid, but ultra-lightweight. Used in a range of manufacturing industries, including wetsuits, cosmetics, and weapons, it's produced by replacing the liquid component of a gel with gas via a process called supercritical drying. The gel used can range from silicon or alumnia to chromia or tin dioxide, which means it doesn't have a defined chemical formula, but does have a set structure that you have to get right in order to create its various unusual properties. 

What does it feel like to hold? Over at Aerogel.com, they describe the sensation as a cross between a Styrofoam peanut, "that green floral potting foam used for potting fake flowers", and a Rice Krispie treat:

"In general aerogels are pretty fragile. Inorganic aerogels are friable and and will snap when bent or, in the case of very low density aerogels, when poked, cleaving with an irregular fracture. This said, depending on their density, aerogels can usually hold a gently applied load of up to 2,000 times their weight and sometimes more.

But since aerogels are so low in density, it doesn’t take much force to achieve a pressure concentration equivalent to 2,000 times the material’s weight at a given point. The amount of pressure required to crush most aerogels with your fingers is about what it would take to crush a piece of Cap’n Crunch cereal."

I need a piece of aerogel in my life.

aerogelonahandCredit: Prof. C. Jeffrey Brinker

Source: turlian