Homemade Silica Aerogel

Homemade Silica Aerogel
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Aerogels are fascinating materials, with lots of interesting and, frankly, amazing properties, but they are not easy to make. These days, industrial manufacture with an eye towards commercial applications, primarily as thermal insulators, is bringing the price down some, at least for granules, but larger pieces still cost around $50 US per cubic inch.

Ben Krasnow, impressively, has made his own, using a homemade supercritical drying apparatus. If you want to get a feel for what goes into making this material, and/or understand why it’s so expensive, and/or try to make some yourself, check out his recent post on the subject. [Thanks, Ben!]


6 thoughts on “Homemade Silica Aerogel

  1. Carlos says:

    Hey my names Carlos I live in the Santa Clara County I’m a highschool student who’s interested in making aerogel and was wondering if maybe I could buy some tetramethylsilane?

  2. James McGoff says:


    I am doing a school project that requires me to build an insulated container, much a cooler. I need this to preserve temperatures for up to 18 hours despite ambient temperatures ranging from -4C to 37C. Obviously, I thought I’d use aerogel as the main component for the insulation. I ordered some and have been confused by the insulation properties, here’s what I mean:

    1. I will place about 700cc of granular aerogel into a plastic kitchen container.
    2. I will place some ice (4-5 cubes) in a small plastic bag, seal it, and bury it down within the aerogel.
    3. I will put a lid on this and let it sit at room temperature.

    Now, the reason that I have been disappointed is that the ice will only last perhaps 6-7 hours before melting. Surely there is a way to improve this. I was thinking that perhaps, since I am using granule aerogel, the air trapped between the particles is the convective heat transfer pathway.

    If I were to vacuum all of the air out of the bag, do you think the ice within would last any longer?

    Thank you for your time and help!

    -James (james.mcgoff@gmail.com)

  3. Shannon says:

    Thank you for your video. Very interesting. After seeing how difficult it is to make even with the right chemicals on-hand, I think I’ll just buy some. Are there any cool home experiments you can do once you have silica aerogel?

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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