Known for its excellent thermal insulation properties, silica aerogel is an open, porous, finely structured, lightweight, hydrophobic synthetic amorphous silica. Its structure limits the mean free path of air, thereby minimizing its thermal conductivity. It is also highly water repellent and vapor permeable. It can therefore be used in construction applications to provide moisture management and control.
Silica aerogels are produced by the sol-gel process using cheap alkoxide precursors such as TEOS or TMOS or water-soluble silicic acid (Na2SiO3). The gelation of these precursors can be triggered by temperature increase, pH change, adsorption or radiation-induced nucleation. Silica aerogels are characterized by their extremely high specific surface area ranging from up to 1000 m2 g-1). Their surfaces are amorphous, non-crystalline, and have a high transparency and a low refractive index. The doping of aerogels with transition metal oxides like vanadia results in efficient catalysts.
Moreover, they exhibit interesting properties such as high flexibility and the ability to recover shape after unloading. For this reason, they are attractive for many applications. In order to test their mechanical properties, a series of samples were fabricated by mixing different concentrations (5 wt% and 10 wt%) of silica aerogel with recycled rubber and PVB. These composites were then subjected to stress-strain tests on a Carver laboratory hydraulic press. The recovered values of Young's modulus of the samples ranged from 69-98 Pa, demonstrating their good elasticity. Furthermore, all the samples showed a high ability to absorb organic liquids.
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