AeroShield is the 2020 winner of the FORGE Product Development Grant Competition which was held at the virtual FORGE Manufacturing and Innovation Showcase in October of 2020. Wondering where they are now, almost a year later, in their product development process? Read on to see how FORGE’s support has contributed to their success.
Over the past year, AeroShield has proven to be a hub for creativity and innovation. When the startup initially applied to FORGE’s Grant Competition, it was mainly focused on using its product for energy efficient windows. AeroShield manufactures sheets of super-insulating silica aerogels by combining silicates, a catalyst, and a solvent. The reaction creates a nanostructure with a chemical composition similar to glass that traps tiny air bubbles- kind of like a glass styrofoam. The material is over 95% air and a result, these materials are light-weight, insulating, and heat-resistant. While most silica aerogels are a hazy blue, AeroShield’s founder Dr. Elise Strobach was part of the team at MIT that developed a process to make silica aerogels transparent like glass. AeroShield intends to supply its aerogel to window manufacturers who can seal the material inside double pane windows, making them 50% more energy efficient.
Over this past year, AeroShield has also done product development for solar thermal receivers. While a photovoltaic panel converts sunlight into electricity, a solar thermal panel converts sunlight into heat – either with or without concentrating mirrors. This heat can be used directly in manufacturing processes, or be used to generate electricity by running a steam turbine.
AeroShield’s material allows light to enter the receiver but doesn’t allow any heat to escape, meaning an AeroShield-insulated receiver can produce energy up to 3x more efficiently than PV.The brilliant application has landed AeroShield a finalist spot in the American Made Solar Prize Competition.
Overcoming COVID-19 challenges
When COVID hit, AeroShield had to get creative. The team had just started operating larger-scale equipment that couldn’t be operated with social-distancing requirements. Faced with this challenge, AeroShield’s engineers worked instead on optimizing the process on benchtop equipment, which led to a breakthrough allowing them to cut solvent use by 40%!
Thanks to the funds from FORGE’s Grant Competition and other grants, AeroShield is investing in equipment to scale up it’s manufacturing and make its gelation process more reliable. So far the team has bought and installed a vessel 30x bigger than their previous rental equipment, made bigger samples, and built a first solar thermal prototype.
Most recently, AeroShield announced it would be developing prototypes as part MassCEC’s InnovateMass Program. Here at FORGE, we will be keeping our fingers crossed, though we doubt we need to, AeroShield is the CLEAR aerogel choice.