An aerogel material with surfaces containing fluorine atoms which exhibits exceptional hydrophobicity, or the ability to repel liquid water. Hydrophobic aerogels are efficient absorbers of solvents from water. Solvents miscible with water are separated from it because the solvents are more volatile than water and they enter the porous aerogel as a vapor across the liquid water/solid interface. Solvents that are immisicble with water are separated from it by selectively wetting the aerogel. The hydrophobic property is achieved by formulating the aerogel using fluorine containing molecules either directly by addition in the sol-gel process, or by treating a standard dried aerogel using the vapor of fluorine containing molecules.
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.