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Name: _____________________________________ Date: _________ Directions: Read both articles and UNDERLINE or HIGHLIGHT 5-10 keys sentences for

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Chemists Make 'Smoke' As Solid As Plastic

By: MALCOLM W. BROWNE New York Times Published: November 19, 1991

Image 1: The structure of aerogels.

Image 2: A flower on top of aerogel with a Bunsen burner beneath.

AEROGELS, solid materials so light and ethereal that they are called "frozen smoke" or "San Francisco fog," have been little more than laboratory curiosities for most of the 60 years since the first one was created. But new forms of frozen smoke are now wafting from laboratories to manufacturers, who hope to exploit them in combating various threats to the environment. A potentially important use of several of the aerogels under development would be to replace the foam plastic now built into commercial and household refrigerators as thermal insulation. The tiny bubbles of chlorofluorocarbons blown into liquid plastic to make the familiar plastic foams are excellent thermal insulators. Heat flows through a chlorofluorocarbon, or CFC, only very slowly, and when bubbles of the gas are separated by microscopic plastic cells, heat transfer is even slower. But ideal though they are as insulators, CFC gases on their eventual release destroy the life-protecting ozone layer in the high atmosphere. But building refrigerators without CFC-foamed plastic poses tremendous engineering problems, especially since new Federal regulations will force American manufacturers to make refrigerators even more energy-efficient than they are now. To get along without CFC's while boosting efficiency, the next generation of refrigerators could require extremely thick walls containing some inferior insulator that would make up for the loss of the thin but efficient CFC-based insulating material now used. The change would make the new refrigerators bulkier than present-day models, or reduce their storage capacities, or both. Aerogel insulation may solve the problem, however. The best-known aerogels consist of microscopic networks of silica molecules, the same molecules that make up common beach sand. Silica aerogels are intrinsically better for the environment than foamed plastic, scientists say. Discarded plastic fills up waste dumps and creates monumental disposal problems for hospitals that receive pharmaceuticals, equipment and human organs packed in the foam. By contrast, silica aerogels used as insulating material simply disintegrate into fine sand when exposed to water, leaving no environmentally harmful residue. The empty channels and spaces in an aerogel's sponge-like structure are so minute that even bacteria and viruses cannot pass through them. And to the touch, an aerogel feels as solid as, say, a piece of glass. The particles and empty pores that make up an aerogel's structure are smaller in size than the wavelengths of visible light, a fact

that makes many aerogels transparent. Despite their seeming solidity, aerogels consist mostly of air, and the lightest of them have densities only about three times greater than that of air itself. A sizable chunk of aerogel can rest on a flimsy house of cards or pile of foamy meringue without the slightest effect. According to Dr. Lawrence W. Hrubesh of Livermore, silica aerogels are polymers in which silicon and oxygen atoms are linked together like tangled strings of beads. Each "bead" is believed to be a roughly spherical cluster of about 1,000 atoms, and adjacent silica beads are linked to each other by covalent bonds -- chemical bonds to which each of the connected atoms contributes an electron. A feature of these inter-bead bonds that fascinates scientists is that they can swivel like ball-and-socket joints. This means that when an aerogel is compressed, its molecular joints can swivel enough to permit the structure to fold in on itself, filling the voids. When the pressure is released, the aerogel springs back, reverting to its original geometry. Aerogels were unknown to science until 1931, when Dr. Steven Kistler of Stanford Unversity made the first one. Scientists regard his achievement as a landmark, the potential of which has only begun to be realized.

How Aerogels Work

By: Heather Quinlan Published: 27 July 2010 http://science.howstuffworks.com/aerogel4.htm As aerogel's production was made less complicated and dangerous, its unique properties have made aerogel popular with a range of industries. Silicon manufacturers, homebuilding materials manufacturers and space agencies have all put aerogel to use. Its popularity has only been hindered by cost, though there is an increasingly successful push to create aerogels that are cost-efficient. In the meantime, aerogels can be found in a range of products:

Wetsuits, Firefighter suits, Skylights, Windows, Rockets, Paints, Cosmetics, Nuclear weapons Because of aerogel's unique structure, its use as an insulator a no-brainer. The super-insulating air pockets with the aerogel's structure almost entirely counteract the three methods of heat transfer: convection, conduction and radiation [source: Cabot Corporation]. Even though aerogel is still quite expensive, the good news is that studies have shown that aerogel insulation used in wall framing and hard-to-insulate areas such as window flashing can save a homeowner up to $750 per year. In addition to helping homeowners save money, aerogel insulation can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. [source: Aspen Aerogels, New Spaceloft]. Companies are racing to find a way to bring costs down, but for now, aerogels are more affordable for NASA than the general public. Still, aerogels are put to use by construction companies, power plants and refineries. Perhaps when it's more affordable, aerogel will achieve that A-list status. From Earth to space, aerogels undoubtedly have a place in our future.