Aerogels are a class of materials with fascinating properties but they are hardly materials at all as they can be composed of up to 99.8% empty space. Aerogels are extreme materials in structure as well as properties. They exhibit the lowest density, thermal conductivity, refractive index, and sound velocity of any bulk solid. Aerogels are among the most versatile materials available for technical applications due to their wide variety of exceptional properties. This material has chemists, physicists, astronomers, and materials scientists utilizing its properties in a myriad of applications. In this lecture Dr. Gash and Mr. Dean Reese will describe and demonstrate the structure, properties, and advanced applications of aerogels, and even synthesize one.

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Speaker Bios



Dr. Alex Gash

Research Chemist, Chemical Sciences Division
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Alex earned his Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from the University of California at Davis and his PhD. at Colorado State University.; In between, he worked for several years as a scientist in the agricultural and mining industries, where he traveled extensively to collect soil and mineral samples. More recently he has been studying the synthesis and characterization of a wide range of materials from heavy metal adsorbents to nano-composites to ceramics. Since 1999 he has worked in the Advanced Materials Synthesis group at LLNL where he investigates low-density porous materials such as aerogels. Alex studies the properties of these materials and in applications involving energy storage and use.



Dean Reese

Physics and Biology Teacher
Tracy High School

Dean Reese received his undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Currently, he is the Science Department Chairperson at Tracy High School and has been teaching there since 2002. He teaches IB Physics, Conceptual Physics, and ELL Conceptual Physics. He has been a Master Teacher for LLNL’s Education Program since 2007 and currently instructs in the Computer Simulation Teacher Research Academy. Dean has co-presented with various scientist in many Science on Saturday Presentations. In 2006, Dean had a DOE Academies Creating Teacher Scientists internship where he interned for 3 consecutive summers at the Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry at LLNL. In 2011, Dean was awarded the Cortopassi Family Foundation Excellence in Science Teaching Award. He is a dedicated advisor for the Tracy High Earth Club, Scientifically Speaking Club, and Computer Programming Club. Dean is a master instructor for the SIMMS (Secondary Integration of Modeling in Math and Science) Project with the intent of developing computer modeling skills for high school science and math teachers within the San Joaquin County. Prior to becoming a teacher Dean was a soldier in the United States Army National Guard.

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