Kitchen experiments with Aerogel
July 6, 2008 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Kitchen experiments with Aerogel
NASA's recent use of Aerogel in the Stardust spacecraft and Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity has brought the substance to the minds of many. Pages on the internet describe its bizarre properties but very little in the way of practical knowledge regarding it. The aim of this project is to discover and present such knowledge.
posted by jwells (5 comments total)

This is interesting, but I was hoping the "Kitchen" label meant it had something to do with food.
posted by grobstein at 1:34 PM on July 7, 2008

Good point. I was trying to come up with something like "Everyman's guide to Aerogel" but it wasn't a guide really, and of course it's not just for men. "Home experiments with Aerogel", and "Everyone's guide to aerogel" just didn't sound as good for some reason... and most of the time I was in the kitchen.

I did think of food applications but didn't come up with much. People cook on salt but cooking on aerogel would be pointless as it doesn't absorb heat. It's non-toxic (though not always) but I doubt it tastes very good. If it hits a liquid it's destroyed. There is the possibility of insulating some type of food, say sherbet surrounded by aerogel and then dough, that needs to be cooked. That might work, but then we've got the aerogel taste problem again.

Any ideas? I'm up for a better name or more experiments. :-) I've got 500cc (about a soup can) of the granular stuff left.
posted by jwells at 4:58 PM on July 7, 2008

You did experiments about it absorbing water and about heating. What if you heated up the pan and the Aerogel at the same time and then added water to it? or directly dropped it into water instead of using the plastic bag? And see if then it would absorb the heat? Cool project though, also liked the ultraviolet light one too.
posted by lilkeith07 at 9:51 PM on July 7, 2008

Isn't Aerogel enormously expensive?

I know the question doesn't pertain directly to your project, though it does influence how many people will ever be able to experiment with it in a 'practical' way.
posted by sindark at 2:27 PM on July 8, 2008

Presently it is expensive. That large chunk cost $100, but I got a huge bottle of bead sized aerogel and that was $35. That's why I tried to turn it into a solid with the plasti dip.

For the future, as more of it is made the cost should come down. I know of at least one effort, which I've yet to see, to help people make it at home. No idea how expensive that'll be. The base gel would probably be a household chemical and some other material like silica. I'm just not sure how the drying process would be done since it involves high pressure and temp. Could be a pressure cooker, but I thought it needed to be more than that. The "household chemical" would generally be flammable, so putting that in a pressure cooker isn't a good idea. We'll see.
posted by jwells at 5:26 AM on July 9, 2008

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