Source Institutions

Source Institutions

Add to list Go to activity
Activity link broken? See if it's at the internet archive
This demonstration (on pages 9-11) uses gelatin and lead pellets to model how aerogel, a technology used by NASA spacecrafts, is used to capture comet particles. Instructions are provided on how to test the consistency of the gelatin "aerogel-lo", which must be prepared beforehand, and tips for running the demo. The procedure also includes background info about aerogel (first discovered in the 1930s), and limits of the "aerogel-lo" model, which is far more dense than real aerogel. Reflection questions are listed at the end.

Quick Guide

Learning Time:

Estimated Materials Cost:

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Model


Materials List ()

  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • Hot water
  • Two clear plastic cups (NOT the soft, opaque plastic ones)
  • A spoon
  • A plastic straw
  • A scrap of clean pantyhose and (optional) tape to secure it
  • Lead pellets (available at sporting goods stores)
  • Safety goggles for you and all students
  • Aerogel Fact Sheet


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Astronomy
      • Probes, Satellites and Spacecraft
    • Solar System
      • Asteroids and Comets
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Aerospace Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • States of Matter
      • Solids


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access