100 Nano-Stories: My Aerogel Idea!

Episode #50: Surface Area + Transparent Aerogels!

Carlos Manuel Jarquín Sánchez
4 min readMar 22, 2021

Preface! ✨

It’s your favorite material science & nanotechnology enthusiast! Today, we have accomplished two things:

  1. I will share an idea of mine to enhance aerogels for the future of energy storage!
  2. We reach 50 articles on “100 Nano-Stories!” We’re halfway done with the series! 😃

Now enough talking! Let’s discuss what my idea is about!

UV Scattering + Surface Area! 🎉

UV Scattering! 🔑

In my previous article, I discussed Rayleigh Scattering and how to shift the scattering to the Ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths!

Whether it’s in the air or an aerogel, it is really the number of particles that determine how much the light will be able to scatter. Sometimes in the air, the particles are the same size as the blue wavelength of light, which is why the sky and aerogel are blue. Rayleigh Scattering!

The equation of Rayleigh Scattering is proportional to 1 divided by the wavelength raised to the 4th power. This means that if the wavelength of a certain ray of light is short, then the wavelength of light will scatter more than a ray of light where the wavelength is larger.

The wavelength of blue is light is 450–485 nanometers. The wavelength of UVA Light is 315–400 nm. This is the closest wavelength in the Ultra-Violet spectrum to the wavelength of Violet (380 to 450 nanometers). If we can shift the Rayleigh Scattering to the UVA Light Wavelength, we can render the aerogel invisible to the naked eye!

Surface Area! 🔑

However, if we want to make aerogels that can reduce cost and time, we can increase the surface area in comparison to the volume of the pores that are in an aerogel!

Think of the aerogel as a leaf! A leaf has to absorb as much light as it can to undergo photosynthesis! So it would want to expose a much of its surface to the sun! That way, it can become a giant sun-eating machine!

If we can do the same with aerogel and apply the same concepts of aerogel, we essentially have a maximum-insulating material that is invisible to the naked eye!

Essential Concepts! 💡

Intuitively, some of you may be thinking that we just shrink the pores to absorb the ultraviolet wavelengths, but that is wrong! We do NOT make the pores smaller!

We have to make the light that passes through the aerogel go directly through the aerogel and/or increase the number of particles in the aerogel!

Sometimes, the light will get redirected because of the nanopores, and the light could get redirected or absorbed! Because the light is absorbed, it will also absorb the blue wavelength of light! That is one reason that aerogel will have the blue light/color!

Closing Thoughts! 💭

🎉 We just finished 50 articles on “100 Nano-Stories!” So glad to reach this feat! 🎉

Thanks to everyone who has stayed with me so far! Only 50 more articles to reach the 100 article mark! :))

See you soon to discuss the math behind monolithic aerogels & aerogel particles! ✌🏽

Vocabulary! 📓

Silyation → The integration of a silyl group known as R3-Si. The letter “R” in organic chemistry usually means a methyl group known as CH3.

Rayleigh Scattering → Light rays are being redirected in different directions on passing through particles/atoms/molecules that are comparable to the wavelength of the light.

Spatial Arrangement → The property is possessed by an array of things that have space between them.

Surface Area → A measure of the total area that the surface of a 3-dimensional object covers/occupies.

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