It is called ‘Frozen Smoke’ because it is so lightweight that it can be placed on the petal of a flower without bending the flower itself. But the aerogel developed by scientists at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram can save the lives of Indian soldiers posted at Siachen.
The special gel helps in insulation. Aimed for use by primary-stage rockets that are sent into space, the gel acts as a coolant for the engines.
Developed indigenously, the gel’s most significant use could be in keeping the soldier who patrol the bone-chilling heights of Siachen warm.
And since the gel is lightweight, it can drastically bring down the need for wearing heavy clothing by the soldiers to keep the body warm.
Merely applying the gel on the body can keep it warm, but the scientists want to go a step ahead and make an entire jacket out of it.
This gel could have saved the lives of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa and possibly the nine others who died in the Siachen avalanche in February this year.
Dr K Sivan, director of VSSC, said, “It is the world’s lightest synthetic material made by man. It is a highly guarded technology.”
But if the aerogel is commercialized, it can have a wide ranging use of window glazing. Being an insulator, the gel will help keep heat outside a room during the summers and inside during winters.
The matrix of aerogel is made up of 99 per cent air. Scientists are working on making the material tough and resilient.