Phenomena

Water and Aerogel

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Aerogel is an extremely light porous material formed when the liquid inside a gel is replaced with gas. When combined with water, aerogel powders can have some wild superhydrophobic effects. Here water condensed on a liquid nitrogen cooler has dripped onto a floor scattered with aerogel powder from the nitrogen’s shipping container. The result is that the water gets partially coated in aerogel powder and takes on some neat properties. Its contact angle with the surface increases – in other words, it beads up – which is typical of superhydrophobicity. When disturbed, the water breaks easily into droplets which do not immediately recombine upon contact. With sufficient distortion, they can rejoin. You can see some other neat examples of aerogel-coated water behaviors in this second video as well. (Video credit: ophilcial; submitted by Jason I.)

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