Aerogel was first created by Steven Kistler in 1931, as a result of a bet with Charles Learned over who could replace the liquid inside a jam (jelly) jar with gas without causing shrinkage.

Aerogel is a low-density solid-state material derived from gel in which the liquid component of the gel has been replaced with gas. The result is an extremely low density solid with several remarkable properties, most notably its effectiveness as a thermal insulator. It is nicknamed frozen smoke, solid smoke or blue smoke due to its semi-transparent nature and the way light scatters in the material; however, it feels like expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam) to the touch .