Sample of aerogel. Image credit: NASA

Sample of aerogel. Image credit: NASA

Invented in the 1930s, this "ghost jello" has been a technological phenomenon in the world of NASA innovation. 

Essentially, it is gelatin. But instead of a liquid structure, the liquid is dried out and replaced with air. The common type of aerogel is the silicate type. But more and more types are being invented, each with its own purpose. 

Here are some fun facts about this weird substance!

1-It is a very porous substance and makes a fantastic insulator. The pores, in fact, are nanoparticle-sized. 

2-Silica-based aerogel tensile strength is stronger than steel. However, the oil from your fingers can potentially disrupt the structure and make it collapse. Always wear gloves!!

3-An application of aerogels is involved with insulating certain instruments on the Mars rovers. 

4-Pellets of aerogel can also be infused in a blanket-type form. This material is used as layering for space suits. 

5-Currently, aerogels are used for protecting payloads as they descend rapidly through the atmosphere. This is done through NASA's Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) project.

6- Future projects will involve the behavior of aerogels on other planetary surfaces and the vacuum of space!

Thank you for reading and next week, we'll take a look at glass on the Martian surface!

Caitlin Ahrens