An improved, rapid process is provided for making microporous and mesoporous materials, including aerogels and pre-ceramics. A gel or gel precursor is confined in a sealed vessel to prevent structural expansion of the gel during the heating process. This confinement allows the gelation and drying processes to be greatly accelerated, and significantly reduces the time required to produce a dried aerogel compared to conventional methods. Drying may be performed either by subcritical drying with a pressurized fluid to expel the liquid from the gel pores or by supercritical drying. The rates of heating and decompression are significantly higher than for conventional methods.
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.