A team of scientists from Technion has succeeded in
manufacturing the world’s lightest ceramic
foam material, implementing a unique mechanism its members have developed. The
new material is a ceramic foam that contains 94% to 96% air by volume, but can
resist temperatures above 1700° C.
material is made of aluminum oxide, a common high-temperature ceramic, but gets
its extraordinary insulating powers from the many tiny air bubbles within the
material. The foam is generated from special crystals that contain the metal
components and all the foaming ingredients. Upon heating, the crystals form a
solution. Within this solution a reaction takes place, forming polymer chains.
After the chains grow sufficiently, the solution suddenly separates into a pure
solvent and the polymer. At this point, the solvent begins to boil, forming
trillions of tiny bubbles that blow the polymer into a foam, stabilized by the
polymer chains. Subsequent heating to high temperatures leaves behind the
ceramic, metal oxide foam.
material will be used for a wide variety of advanced applications such as
acoustic insulation, thermal insulation, adsorption of environmental pollutants
or as a platform for bio-technology applications. The estimated market for this
product is worth billions of dollars.
Professor Gideon Grader of
Technion Faculty of Chemical Engineering, headed the research team that
developed the new material, explains that the innovative foam’s structure is
composed of many cells thus insuring its safety. Alternative insulation material
currently in use which are based on ceramic fibers could cause severe
environmental and health damages, such as those caused by asbestos fibers.
Professor Grader, an expert
on ceramic materials, interned at Bell Labs and holds a first degree from U.C.
Berkeley and a Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology.
Cellaris has recently raised
700 thousand dollars from private investors and venture capital funds in the
Grader established Cellaris two years ago under the auspices of the Technion
Incubator for Technological Entrepreneurship. Cellaris is developing the foam
for a variety of applications on a pre-industrial scale, currently hiring 9
employees and preparing for the establishment of its industrial manufacturing
Department of Chemical Engineering
Technion-Israel Institute of Technology
Haifa 32000, Israel
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