Materials

Aerogel fashioned into world's lightest electromagnetic shielding

Aerogel fashioned into world's...
The aerogel-based electromagnetic shield produced by EMPA researchers
The aerogel-based electromagnetic shield produced by EMPA researchers
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The aerogel-based electromagnetic shield produced by EMPA researchers
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The aerogel-based electromagnetic shield produced by EMPA researchers

Containing the electromagnetic radiation generated by electronic components is a key consideration for designers of electronic devices, but today’s metal-based shielding materials have their downsides. Scientists at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) have developed an new aerogel-based material that blocks a wide range of frequencies, forming what they describe as by far the lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world.

Blocking the electromagnetic radiation in electronic devices can be critical to maintaining their performance, because if these fields aren’t isolated from their surroundings they can affect signal transmission or the function of nearby electronics. Engineers often turn to thin sheet metals for this task, but these add extra weight to the device and don’t always fit neatly with the design.

The EMPA team has been investigating alternative materials with the hope of producing lighter, more malleable solutions, which led them to cellulose fibers sourced from wood. These were whittled down to nanoscale size and combined with silver nanowires to form a light, porous aerogel that offers “excellent shielding against electromagnetic radiation,” with a density of only 1.7 milligrams per cubic centimeter.

While the composition of the cellulose fibers and silver nanowires produce a shielding effect, the porous nature of the material also plays a role. When the electromagnetic fields encounter the pores, they are bounced around within the void to generate a secondary electromagnetic field, which actually cancels out the original.

The combined effect is a material that blocks virtually all radiation in the 8 to 12 GHz range, according to the team. The desired level of absorption, meanwhile, can be adjusted by tweaking the porosity, number of silver nanowires and thickness of the material.

The team was able to able to make further weight reductions by swapping out the silver nanowires for plates of titanium carbide, which act like “bricks” while the cellulose fibers act as the “mortar.” This combined titanium carbide cellulose aerogel is “by far the lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world,” according to the team.

Two papers detailing the research were published in ACS Nano and Advanced Science, respectively.

Source: EMPA

5 comments
Quo Vadis
Very interesting. I imagine many governments and contractors will be keen to see how this technology can be applied for military (e.g. radar stealth) purposes.
jocco
Would this work in space for solar radiation?
joe46
sweet, I'll use this to line my tin foil hat lol
Techrex
?? If such materials can bounce around the electromagnetic waves inside of its pores, to create a kind of force field that further blocks such interfering radiation, a self-empowered 'Faraday Cage' shield of sort, then, could we make some kind of shielding, that could draw electrical power from incoming radiations? If NASA is now experimenting with metal foams, to make very lightweight but very strong structures or shielding for space habitats, what if we could take this shielding, and make it do double-duty, as a kind of 'solar cell panel', only one that could retain an electrical charge potential from the solar wind hitting the ISS, International Space Station, or space ships in general, and, by passing a small electric current through the shielding to carry these contained ions to be grounded into some kind of magnetized battery, we could exploit the normally harmful solar wind ionizing radiations, and use it to provide electrical power for the ISS or space ships?
Kpar
Can this be made cheaply enough to provide large scale protection against solar flares (ala the Carrington Event) or even EMP weapons?

Our entire electricity- based civilization is at risk, and we have not prepared.