Aerogel was first created by Samuel Stephens Kistler in 1931, as a result of a bet with Charles Learned over who could replace the liquid in "jellies" with gas without causing shrinkage.
Aerogels are produced by extracting the liquid component of a gel through supercritical drying. This allows the liquid to be slowly dried off without causing the solid matrix in the gel to collapse from capillary action, as would happen with conventional evaporation. The first aerogels were produced from silica gels. Kistler's later work involved aerogels based on alumina, chromia and tin dioxide. Carbon aerogels were first developed in the late 1980s.
Aerogel does not have a designated material with set chemical formula but the term is used to group all the material with a certain geometric structure."
See more @ Wikipedia
- Aerogels: Thinner, Lighter, Stronger @ NASA
- QUEST Lab: Aerogel - KQED QUEST