Pouring Red Hot Lava onto an Aerogel Tile: Will It Burn Your Fingers?

Watch this incredible video to find out whether or not an aerogel tile can withstand lava and if it'll burn you afterwards.
Fabienne Lang

What could possibly go wrong with pouring piping hot lava from a furnace onto a tile, and then touching it? This impressive home video shows us exactly what happens.

First, watch bright yellow and orange lava being poured directly onto the tile, and then see as the glob of lava slowly cool down into a dark orange mass over and around the tile. Can the tile stay protected in the lava? Will it survive the heat? Will your fingers burn upon touching it?

Miraculously, it survives, and you won't get burnt! Cracks that are seen in the tile are actually from the underlying paper that burnt to a crisp.

After a few fearful attempts at tapping the aerogel tile, the video creator actually touches the tile without being burnt. If watching molten lava pouring out of a furnace wasn't enough to prove just how hot it is, a match is placed onto it and you can see that it catches fire immediately. The lava is still hot.

So, what are these thermal tiles actually used for, aside from cool experiments?

NASA and other space exploration companies use them to protect their space shuttles when they re-enter the atmosphere. Thanks to these tiles with extremely low thermal conductivity (meaning they don't conduct heat very much), they protect the space shuttles from burning up or combusting on the spot. Rather useful. 

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The tiles have very low thermal conductivity because they're made from what's called "aerogel" - which can be made from a number of different materials. The one in the video here is made from silicon. Because the pores in aerogel tiles are so minute, air passes through them extremely slowly, thus heat moves around in a much slower way. 

Watch the full video to see for yourselves what protects our space shuttles.

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