Silica aerogels are light weight, nanostructured, and highly porous materials with an open pore structure. Due to their excellent characteristics, such as extremely low thermal conductivity, low density and high porosity, the silica aerogels become promising potential adsorbents, catalysts, thermal insulation, and acoustic absorption materials for environmental purposes. This paper presents the synthesis of a highly flexible polymer modified silica aerogel with the use of a cellulose-methyltriethoxysilane (MTES) precursor in a two-step acid-base catalyzed sol-gel process. The physical properties of the resulting aerogels were characterized by thermogravimetry, scanning electron microscopy, nitrogen adsorption-desorption, contact angle, thermal conductivity measurements, compression testing and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. The fabricated aerogel exhibited high flexibility with a Young’s modulus of compression of 0.33 MPa and the density of 0.132 g/cm3. They were hydrophobic in nature and had low thermal conductivity. Preparation of aerogel with solid waste (fly ash/bottom ash) is also discussed. The preliminary results showed that the materials have great potential for environmental application, i.e. enhancement of solid waste recycling rate by converting waste to high value-added materials, super thermal and acoustic insulation materials in green building and removal of oil spilled into surface drainage.
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