NASA SBIR SUCCESS STORY Kennedy Space Center 
1998 Phase II

Aerogel Technology Advancements

Aspen Systems, Inc.

Marlborough, MA

INNOVATION
A new, fast and efficient solvent extraction process speeds up the production of high quality aerogels by at least ten times compared to the state-of-the-art CO2 drying process.
Aerogel-Insulated Antarctic Expedition Jacket
Aerogel-Insulated Antarctic
Expedition Jacket
Optional Powerpoint file
ACCOMPLISHMENTS
  • Aspen Systems is a leading manufacturer of aerogels in the United States.
  • Aerogels have very high thermal insulation values, Infrared (IR) shielding, and acoustic and shock absorption characteristics.
  • Aspen has been developing various aerogel products and technologies starting with a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract in 1993 with NASA at Kennedy Space Center. The work involved the development of flexible aerogel insulation for cryogenic applications.
  • In March 1999 Aspen invented a high-speed, low-cost manufacturing process for aerogels for which Aspen received the prestigious SBIR Technology of the Year Award in Manufacturing/Materials in November 1999.
COMMERCIALIZATION
  • The new process provides dramatic cost reductions in the manufacture of aerogels.
  • Aspen plans to mass-produce aerogels using this new method and open world markets for building insulation, skylights/windows, clothing, home appliances, aerospace, automotive, cryogenics, and other applications.
  • The potential worldwide market for low-cost aerogels is projected to be $10 billion a year by 2005. A 1000-liter pilot plant based on this new aerogel production process is being built to start production by late 2001.
  • Aspen currently offers three aerogel product lines: Cryogel®, Pyrogel®, and Polar Bear™, for low, high, and medium temperature applications, respectively. Aspen is also producing an inexpensive, resilient, low dusting, and extremely flexible blanket called Spaceloft™, and a thin aerogel imbedded fabric called Aerotex™, developed in a research and development program. These are advanced versions of the flexible aerogel insulation originally developed under the KSC Phase II SBIR contract.

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GOVERNMENT/SCIENCE APPLICATIONS
  • Aspen Systems responded to NASA's need for an aerogel-based cryogenic insulation system with extremely low thermal conductivity that is flexible, durable, and easy to use.
  • Prototype aerogel composite systems are currently being field tested at KSC. The basic form of the system is a blanket composed of aerogel-based composites and radiation shield layers. The final product can be a blanket, sheet, or clamshell unit, depending on the application.  
  • Potential space applications include the Reusable Launch Vehicle, Space Shuttle upgrades, and interplanetary propulsion and life support equipment. The aerogel composites have been utilized in the construction of two research cryostats, which are currently used for thermal measurements at the KSC Cryogenics Test Laboratory. propellants, which are typical for space launch applications.
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