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Advances in Materials Science and Engineering
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 484153, 6 pages
Research Article

Aerogels Materials as Space Debris Collectors

1IRD, UMR 237, IMBE, CAEC, BP 214 Petit Morne, 97232 Le Lamentin, Martinique, France
2CNRS, UMR 7263, IMBE Aix Marseille Université, Faculté des Sciences et Techniques de Saint Jérôme, Avenue Escadrille Normandie Niémen, 13397 Marseille Cedex 20, France
3PRIME Verre, PAT du Millénaire Bât 10, 1350 Avenue A. Einstein, 34000 Montpelier, France
4Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), 18, Avenue Edouard Belin, 31401 Toulouse Cedex 9, France

Received 23 May 2013; Accepted 1 August 2013

Academic Editor: Charles Sorrell

Copyright © 2013 Thierry Woignier et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Material degradation due to the specific space environment becomes a key parameter for space missions. The use of large surface of brittle materials on satellites can produce, if impacted by hypervelocity particles, ejected volumes of mater 100 times higher than the impacting one. The presented work is devoted to the use of silica aerogels as passive detectors. Aerogels have been exposed to the low earth orbit of the ISS for 18 months. The study describes the aerogels process and the choice of synthesis parameters in such a way to get expected features in terms of porosity, mechanical properties, internal stresses, and transparency. Low-density aerogels (0.09 g·cm−3) have been prepared. The control of transparency necessary to see and identify particles and fragments collected is obtained using a base catalysis during gel synthesis. After return to earth, the aerogels samples have been observed using optical microscopy to detect and quantify craters on the exposed surface. First results obtained on a small part of the aerogels indicate a large number of debris collected in the materials.