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Method of Silica Aerogel Fabrication Using Fly Ash and Trona Ore

UW ID: 18-016

Description of Technology

          Silica aerogel is an extremely lightweight material that is made up of 95% air. It is very strong in compression with respect to its weight. This material has been around for a long time but uses are just starting to surface as it becomes more available. One of these uses is to insulate electronics on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers.

          Researchers at the University of Wyoming have invented two new techniques for fabrication of silica aerogels. The first method uses fly ash and trona ore as the starting materials. These two materials are mixed, then go through multiple processing and washing cycles, and then are dried in ambient pressure in order to create silica aerogels. The final product presents special characteristics including: 1) high thermal stability for maintaining hydrophobicity up to 476˚C 2) contact angle of the as-dried silica aerogel as high as 151˚ 3) silica particle size of ca. 3-6nm 4) the 500˚C heat treatment sample possessing a large surface area of 856.2 m2/g, a large pore volume of 2.92 cm3/g, and an average pore diameter of 17.1 nm.

          The second method is a novel and environmentally friendly way to create silica aerogels by using CO2 as the gelation agent and drying in ambient pressure. The produced aerogel has a contact angle as high as 154˚. The specific surface area of the aerogel product approaches the peak value of 643.9 m2/g and the pore volume reaches the maximum value of 1.45 cm3/g at 400˚C.  This technique develops a way to reuse captured CO2 for value-added product manufacturing.



          Silica aerogel is a futuristic material that is just starting to find uses in today’s industries. It can be applied in many ways such as an energy or acoustic dampening, as a structural material in the aerospace industry, and even for oil absorption. This technology’s method of creating silica aerogel is cost effective and straightforward. Current silica aerogel manufacturers could benefit from this technology by incorporating it into their production method in order to lower costs and simplify their process. This could make the production of silica aerogel more feasible and cost effective which could bring it to a greater market sooner. Because it also turns a pollutant into a valuable material, it is a very attractive technology in many fields.


Features & Benefits

  • High thermal stability

  • Large contact area

  • Dries at ambient temperature to avoid expensive pressure treatments

Downloadable PDF: 18-016


Gang Tan

Xiaodong Wu

Maohong Fan

Fred McLaughlin

Xiaodong Shen

Patent Status:  

Patent Pending


Contact Us: 

University of Wyoming Technology Transfer and Research Products Center 

Dept. 3672

1000 E. University Ave. 

Laramie, WY 


Phone: 307-766-2520

Fax: 307-766-2530


Contact Us

Wyoming Technology Transfer and Research Products Center

Dept. 3672

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2520

Fax: (307) 766-2530


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