Advanced Aerogel Applications

The development of the next generation miniaturized thermal transpiration air pump systems has been pursued intensively for electrical power generation, gas analysis, global positioning system, fuel cells, and micro-combustion in portable unmanned vehicles etc. during the last years. The core component of such systems is a highly thermal insulating and porous membrane, through which a thermo-molecular pressure gradient is generated once a temperature difference is applied between the two sides. It is particularly challenging to develop efficient pump membranes at a miniaturized scale. Through collaboration with EPFL, we developed a silica based aerogel membrane, which is manufactured via a novel and simple sol-gel process. A large thermal insulation and high air conductance were achieved at the same time. The realized miniaturized-scale, low-density, and hydrophobic aerogel membranes have delivered an air flow density as high as 3.85 sccm/cm2, which is 50% higher than with state-of-the-art, cellulose based membranes at the same power input and constitutes the highest benchmark published to date. The results have been published in ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.