The Union College Aerogel Laboratory was launched in 2002 with a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF MRI CTS-0216153). This grand provided funds to introduce an interdisciplinary collaborative facility for faculty and student researchers in the Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry Departments at Union College. The funds have been used to purchase equipment necessary to implement two aerogel fabrication techniques: an automated pressure and temperature controlled hydraulic press and a critical point drying system. It also provided instruments to characterized those aerogels: a thermal constants analyzer, a gas absorption system, an integrating sphere spectrophotometer, and a fluorescence spectrometer.
The Laboratory is used by faculty and students in Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry to: (1) further develop a new aerogel fabrication technique and perform fundamental studies on the effects of process variables on the aerogel nanostructure, (2) characterize the thermal and optical properties of silica aerofels, (3) use fluorescence spectroscopy to perform fundamental studies of aerogel structure & applications of aerogels to chemical sensing, and (4) develop inorganic-organic scintillator composites and perform fundamental studies of the inclusion chemistry of aerogels.
The Union College Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry Departments have a demonstrated history of excellence in introducing students to research at a formative stage of their academic careers, providing students with coursework that provides the necessary background for success in graduate studies, and placing these students successfully in graduate programs and industrial positions. As a result, these departments have had an impact on the scientific infrastructure of this nation.
The Aerogel Lab has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, and Union College.
Instrumentation Used in the Lab: