The materials could also find use in the parachute-like decelerators NASA is developing to prevent large payloads from disintegrating while descending to Mars’s surface. But aerogels now on the market aren’t up to the task, Meador noted. Those products, made by removing the solvent from a silica gel, are good insulators, Meador said, “but they will flake apart and produce a lot of dust,” reducing their performance. Plus, they’re not sufficiently flexible for use in decelerators; the materials must fold and store inside small hatches before they deploy. So Meador of Ohio’s NASA Glenn Research Center, Haiquan (Heidi) Guo of Ohio Aerospace Institute, and colleagues have developed all-polymer aerogels as replacements for the silica-based ones.
by Lauren K. Wolf |
September 17, 2012