The International Aerogel Community

An Update from Professor Irina Smirnova

The Fifth International Seminar on Aerogels, which was originally scheduled for 16-18 September 2020, has been postponed to September 2021 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic (see more details). In its place, the Aerogel Community will host an Online Seminar on Aerogels – 2020 on the same dates (see more details).

In view of the important role played by sol-gel science and technology in the formation and processing of aerogels, Professor Irina Smirnova (Hamburg University of Technology, Germany and Chair of the International Seminar on Aerogels) has proposed the development of a networking activity to initiate closer collaborations between the broader Sol-Gel and Aerogel Communities. As is evident from the patent literature, aerogels have already successfully made the transition from the laboratory to commercial applications, with innovations in processing methods regularly reported. An important focus of the Aerogel Community is to tailor the chemical, physical and mechanical properties of aerogels for specific applications.

To achieve this goal, the adaptation of innovative sol-gel chemistry is often required. In addition to traditional inorganic gels, new gel types include synthetic polymers, biopolymers, metals and hybrid systems, necessitating careful experimental work and modelling of gel synthesis and growth. In addition, the important steps of aerogel production, solvent exchange and supercritical drying require optimisation for each type of gel.

This suggests the need for an interdisciplinary collaboration to integrate and optimise the key production steps, starting from a sol, production of a gel and finishing with an aerogel, with properties tailored for specific applications. To explore the exciting possibilities arising from such collaboration, the organisers of the Online Aerogel Seminar 2020 look forward to welcoming members of the Sol-Gel community to both the online meeting and to the traditional International Seminar on Aerogels in September 2021.