In one embodiment, an aerogel or xerogel includes column structures of a material having minor pores therein and major pores devoid of the material positioned between the column structures, where longitudinal axes of the major pores are substantially parallel to one another. In another embodiment, a method includes heating a sol including aerogel or xerogel precursor materials to cause gelation thereof to form an aerogel or xerogel and exposing the heated sol to an electric field, wherein the electric field causes orientation of a microstructure of the sol during gelation, which is retained by the aerogel or xerogel. In one approach, an aerogel has elongated pores extending between a material arranged in column structures having structural characteristics of being formed from a sol exposed to an electric field that causes orientation of a microstructure of the sol during gelation which is retained by the elongated pores of the aerogel.
 The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. DE-AC52-07NA27344 between the United States Department of Energy and Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.