“When I set to work on Aerogel in 2010, the number of research works on this kind of material was still modest in the world. Scientists mostly focused on Silica Aerogel with a lot of limitations during the synthesis process,” says Associate Prof Dr Duong Minh Hai, recalling the time when he began working for the National University of Singapore (NUS).

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Associate Prof Dr Duong Minh Hai (first left)

At that time, the production cost of Silica Aerogel was high, $20-30 per square meter, for every Aerogel sample, 0.6-1 cm thick.

Inspired by environmental protection, his research team thought of taking full advantage of industrial and agricultural waste to make Aerogel with a new method and three aims – helping solve environmental problems; creating new Aerogel types with high practical value; and improving society’s awareness of waste recycling and treatment.

According to Hai, his team was successful because of the new method to ‘bind’ raw materials instead of the traditional method which needs toxic chemicals.

Aerogel, the super material, opens great opportunities for humans to solve problems, from waste treatment and environmental protection to the production of new materials.

With the new method, Hai and his co-workers can create Aerogel at low production costs, and with energy savings, while it shortens the production process, and doesn't discharge toxic solvents to the environment. It can be used for industrial-scale production, and most importantly, can turn agricultural and industrial waste into a valuable and recyclable kind of material.

The success is so impressive that the technology of the research team headed by Hai received the first prize for Sustainable Technologies at Create the Future Design Contest 2018, and two prizes at TechConnect Innovation Awards in the US. Their success has been reported by large newswires.

Aerogel, created in 1931, does not indicate a material with defined chemical formula, but represents a group of materials that are synthesized by replacing the liquid component in gel with air.

Thanks to this, Aerogel possesses special characteristics: it is super-porous (can contain air of up to 95-99 percent), super light (0.0011-0.5 g/cm3, the lightest material), and heat insulating.

With its ultra-low specific gravity and high porosity, Aerogel is considered a potential material for the medical device manufacturing industry, personal care products, heat-retardant coatings, and thermal insulation for soundproof and fireproof panels. It can be used to treat oil spills, and for anti dust and toxic gas masks and hemostatic devices, and preserve agricultural products.

At present, waste in Vietnam is mostly recycled into basic and low-value products. Aerogel technology promises to help create valuable products which can be used in practice. 

Tu Linh

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