Thermal Protection

Enhanced thermal stability in zirconia-based aerogels

Comparison of YSZ aerogels with different yttria concentrations.

The goal of the project is to develop an understanding of the structural and thermal properties of doped zirconia aerogels for use in thermal protection systems for aerospace applications. Formulations and synthetic approaches for high temperature aerogels will be developed through iterative synthesis and characterization of yttria-stabilized zirconia or hafnia aerogels with other dopants: ytterbium, gadolinium, cerium, and calcium. With high temperature aerogels identified, composite materials utilizing ceramic fiber papers and aerogels will be fabricated and extensively characterized to determine their effectiveness as insulators with stability at high temperatures for application in re-entry vehicles, rovers, thermoelectric generators, and hypersonic aircraft.

Relevant Publications:

N.S. Olson, F.I. Hurwitz, H. Guo, N.J. Madden, J.L. Stokes, J.A. Krogstad. “Enhanced thermal stability of high yttria concentration YSZ aerogels.” J Am Ceram Soc. 00:1–13 (2021). DOI: 10.1111/jace.17792.


Nate Olson is the primary graduate student leading this effort. He’s been assisted by undergraduate researchers Jordan Meyer and Noha Azizalrahman.

This work was supported by a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship (80NSSC18K1189). Characterization was carried out in part in the Illinois Materials Research Laboratory Central Research Facilities, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Elemental analysis was per- formed by the Microanalysis Laboratory in the School of Chemical Sciences, UIUC. The authors would like to thank M. Buckwalter at Aerogel Technologies, LLC, for aiding in nitrogen physisorption measurements.