Scientists image ‘liquid smoke’ in 3D

July 30th, 2008 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 30 (IANS) Researchers have created a 3D image of a material known as ‘liquid smoke’ or aerogel, an open-cell polymer with pores smaller than 50 nanometers. Aerogel is a form of nanofoam, designed for high strengh-to-weight ratio. Such nanofoam structures are also present in phospholipids, cells, bone structure, polymers and structural materials, wherever lightness and strength are needed.

These nano-sized crystalline materials can be used as catalysts for cleaner fuels and for the diffusion of water and oil in porous rocks.

Aerogels have the highest internal surface area per gram of material of any known materials because of its complicated, cross-linked internal structure.

They also exhibit the best electrical, thermal and sound insulation properties of any known solid. It’s not easy to see inside aerogel to determine the topology and structure at nanoscale-length scales because the smallest pore is normally too small to be observed internally by any conventional microscope.

But Livermore scientist Anton Barty and Lawrence Berkeley and researcher Stefano Marchesini inverted coherent X-ray diffraction patterns to capture 3D bulk lattice arrangement of a micron-sized piece of aerogel.

“By imaging an isolated object at high resolution in three dimensions, we’ve opened the door to a range of applications in material science, nanotechnology and cellular biology,” Barty said.

For about 20 years, Livermore has developed and improved aerogels for national security applications, and synthesised electrically conductive inorganic aerogels for use as supercapacitors.

It has been used as water purifier for extracting harmful contaminants from industrial waste or for desalinising seawater, and even to capture stardust particles during NASA’s Stardust mission.

In future, the 3D analysis could be applied to other porous materials and could help modelling filtration problems such as oil and water in minerals, Barty said.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in World |