Journal of Sol-Gel Science and Technology

, Volume 77, Issue 2, pp 325–334 | Cite as

Ultralow-density double-layer silica aerogel fabrication for the intact capture of cosmic dust in low-Earth orbits

  • Makoto TabataEmail author
  • Hideyuki Kawai
  • Hajime Yano
  • Eiichi Imai
  • Hirofumi Hashimoto
  • Shin-ichi Yokobori
  • Akihiko Yamagishi
Original Paper


The fabrication of an ultralow-density hydrophobic silica aerogel for the intact capture cosmic dust during the Tanpopo mission is described. The Tanpopo experiment performed on the International Space Station orbiting the Earth includes the collection of terrestrial and interplanetary dust samples on a silica aerogel capture medium exposed to space for later ground-based biological and chemical analyses. The key to the mission’s success is the development of high-performance capture media, and the major challenge is to satisfy the mechanical requirements as a spacecraft payload while maximizing the performance for intact capture. To this end, an ultralow-density (0.01 g cm−3) soft aerogel was employed in combination with a relatively robust 0.03 g cm−3 aerogel. A procedure was also established for the mass production of double-layer aerogel tiles formed with a 0.01 g cm−3 surface layer and a 0.03 g cm−3 open-topped, box-shaped base layer, and 60 aerogel tiles were manufactured. The fabricated aerogel tiles have been demonstrated to be suitable as flight hardware with respect to both scientific and safety requirements.

Graphical Abstract


Silica aerogel Sol–gel polymerization Supercritical drying Cosmic dust Astrobiology Tanpopo 



The authors are grateful to the members of the Tanpopo Collaboration and Prof. I. Adachi of the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Japan for their assistance with the aerogel design, development, and fabrication. This study was supported in part by the Space Plasma Laboratory at ISAS, JAXA, and we would like to thank Dr. S. Hasegawa and the crew for their two-stage light-gas gun operation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Makoto Tabata
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hideyuki Kawai
    • 1
  • Hajime Yano
    • 2
  • Eiichi Imai
    • 3
  • Hirofumi Hashimoto
    • 2
  • Shin-ichi Yokobori
    • 4
  • Akihiko Yamagishi
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsChiba UniversityChibaJapan
  2. 2.Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)SagamiharaJapan
  3. 3.Department of BioengineeringNagaoka University of TechnologyNagaokaJapan
  4. 4.Department of Applied Life SciencesTokyo University of Pharmacy and Life SciencesHachiojiJapan

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