First created in 1931 by Samuel Stephens Kistler while studying the properties of liquid in jellies and trying to replace them with gas without causing shrinkage, Aerogel is a slightly translucent, super strong and extremely light solid. Its amazing nature can very well be analysed from its name in the Guinness Records as the World’s lightest solid.
It is basically created by extracting or “supercritically drying” the liquid component of the gel; the idea is to dry off the moisture without causing the solid matrix of the gel to breakdown. Initially aerogels were formed from silica gels but later Kistler used alumina, tin dioxide and chromia to produce them.
Even though it is so light, aerogel outdoes itself for being one of the most powerful materials in the world. Having 99.8% air and being 1000 times less dense than glass, it can support massive weight and can bear intense temperatures and sounds. A single one-pound block can hold half a ton of weight. Also, one inch thick aerogel has insulating properties compared to a ten inch glass window.
The following videos show how silica aerogel can be made at home: