A Continuous Extraction and Pumpless Supercritical CO2 Drying System for Laboratory-Scale Aerogel Production


Production of aerogels starts with solution chemistry and may end with supercritical carbon dioxide drying, which both require a specialized system. Here we present a complete aerogel production system that was developed and used in our laboratory over the last nine years. Our aim was to develop a supercritical dryer and a protocol, whereby the CO2 pump can be left out, and the entire flow system is operated by the pressure of the CO2 cylinder. Drying pressure and temperature are controlled by the combination of the filling and heating temperatures. A continuous-mode solvent exchange system has also been developed, in which the solvent consumption during the process can be reduced to one-third of the batch method. In the new medium temperature 1.5 L volume supercritical dryer, the temperature is set to a constant 80–82 °C, and the pressure can be in the 90–200 bar range, depending on the conditions. We have performed approximately 200 dryings thus far, and prepared a wide range of monolithic aerogels, from pristine silica aerogels to polysaccharides and collagen. In this paper, we have summarized not only the technical details, but also the work experiences, as well as advantages and disadvantages of the systems

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