Aerogels are amazing materials – they’re ultra strong, ultra light, and ultra insulating making them perfect for many applications.


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We know what would happen if you fell into molten lava. It. Ain’t. Pretty. Actually, it’s way worse than you think. It’s so bad that movies offer up super-sanitized versions of that fiery death. And when you are aware of the horrors that await anyone who comes in contact with liquid hot rock, it’s hard to watch videos of magma running like water. Because all you can think is, “Get away you’re too close!”


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So this clip we just came across makes us very, very anxious. A scientist touched lava using one of the best insulators in the world – an aerogel that is so good it can help you grow plants on Mars, protect you from being killed by liquid nitrogen, and at the same time be ten times stronger than steel but 99.8% lighter. And even though we know it worked, there’s a zero percent chance we would ever try it ourselves.


Don’t try this at home!


The Action Lab YouTube channel posted a short clip from an old experiment they did. They poured lava on top of an insulative aerogel tile. You would think that would destroy the aerogel. The same way you expect magma to destroy just about anything and everything it comes in contact with. Instead, the lava essentially rested on top of it, making it possible for someone to “touch” it.


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This is possible because of the aerogel’s own amazing properties. Aerogel is an “open-celled, mesoporous, solid foam that is composed of a network of interconnected nanostructures and that exhibits a porosity, or non-solid volume, of no less than 50%.” That makes it sound harder to understand than it actually is though. Despite technically being a solid, this type of aerogel is made up of 98% air. As a result, it can even insulate against the incredible heat of lava.

For our own peace of mind, we’re going to assume this person knew it was 100% safe to put his finger on the aerogel. (Though maybe he could have told the poor woman standing nearby what he was doing and why?) We trust science. But we still wouldn’t do this because we don’t trust ourselves. Aerogel might insulate you from heat. It doesn’t insulate you from slipping because you’re too nervous to be around lava though.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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