Reinforced Silica Aerogels
The often quoted high strength-to-weight ratio of silica aerogels is somewhat misleading as it is mostly due to their low density, rather than high strength. In fact, silica aerogels are notoriously brittle and can be quite dusty. Most reinforcement strategies result in an increase in strength, but at a high cost in thermal conductivity. Recently, we were able to reinforce silica aerogel through co-gelation with the biopolymer pectin, resulting in a dramatic increase in mechanical strength without a penalty in thermal conductivity (as recently published on Angewandte Chemie). Other ongoing work focuses on other (bio-)polymer reinforcement agents as well as macroscopic reinforcement and templating.