A two-step method for producing monolithic alumina aerogels having porosities of greater than 80 percent. Very strong, very low density alumina aerogel monoliths are prepared using the two-step sol-gel process. The method of preparing pure alumina aerogel modifies the prior known sol method by combining the use of substoichiometric water for hydrolysis, the use of acetic acid to control hydrolysis/condensation, and high temperature supercritical drying, all of which contribute to the formation of a polycrystalline aerogel microstructure. This structure provides exceptional mechanical properties of the alumina aerogel, as well as enhanced thermal resistance and high temperature stability.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.