Technology 3 min read

Ultralight Silver Nanowire Aerogel to Revolutionize Electronics

LLNL researchers developed a new method for producing an ultralight silver nanowire aerogel that has myriad applications in energy and electronics.

Dario Sabljak | Shutterstock.com

Dario Sabljak | Shutterstock.com

Researchers have developed new ultra-conductive and almost-weightless silver foam that could have many applications, from energy to hardware electronics.

Researchers are working to develop ultralight and low-density materials with interesting properties for thermal insulation, acoustic damping (soundproofing), vibration or shock isolation, battery electrodes, catalytic systems, and many other applications.

Recently, Russian researchers have developed new (aluminum-based) metal foam that could help make ships lighter and improve the function of bulkheads.

New scalable method to produce silver nanowire aerogel for diverse applications.Click To Tweet

Aerogel, a ‘foam’ created in multiple stages, is an ultra-light porous synthetic material derived from a metal gel where the liquid component is replaced by gas.

The result is solid with very low density and thermal conductivity that can be used in particular as a thermal insulation, a chemical absorber (in the event of a leak), an electrochemical supercapacitor, or a shock absorber.

Ultralight, Ultraconductive Silver Nanowire Aerogel

For a long time, production costs of aerogels prevented their entry to mass manufacture despite their very interesting properties.

Conventionally, metal foams are produced following complex processes that require high temperatures and high pressure or oxygen exclusion. These strict manufacturing conditions prevent scalability to mass production.

However, ongoing research is making significant progress in terms of scalability of aerogels’ production processes.

Researchers from the from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) came up with a new industrially scalable method to produce silver nanowire aerogel.

LLNL researchers, whose main sponsor is the U.S. Department of Energy, started with silver nanowire as a building block which allowed them to overcome many of the limitations of other production methods.

The resulting aerogel is so ultralight and low-dense (4.8mg/cm3) that a delicate rosebud can hold it without sagging.

And with its excellent electrical and mechanical properties, this silver nanowire aerogel could find practical uses in several industries, such as energy storage, catalysis, fuel cells, medical devices, sensors, and other electronics.

We are able to make these ultra-lightweight silver aerogels because the quality of our silver nanowires is extremely high,said Professor Yong Han from LLNL and principal investigator of the project. “The custom feedstock synthesis capabilities we have at the Lab allow us to create such materials with demanding specifications for diverse application.”

The study describing LLNL’s new method was published in the online edition of Nano Letters, and the journal will also feature it on the cover of its December issue.

Where could this new aerogel be applied with the most usefulness?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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