Taste the Sky

The World's Lightest Dessert

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TASTE THE SKY: The world’s Lightest dessert
Aerogel is a remarkable material. The world’s lightest solid, derived from a gel, aerogel is comprised of 98% air and looks like you are holding a piece of sky in your hand! Bompas & Parr have applied the technical process of super-critical drying (used in aerogel formation) to create the world’s lightest meringues that look like you are eating a fragment of the sky.

After extensive research and development in partnership with Aerogelex in Hamburg, Germany, we present the world’s lightest meringue at the King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia during Ithra’s Creativity Season, Tanween, on October 10-26, 2019 as part of an immersive history of the magnificent meringue.

Aerogel pioneer, Kistler focused his research on silica, alumina, chromia and tin dioxide gels but his curious spirit pushed him to explore the far reaches of what would be possible to create in his autoclave. This included nickel tartarate, stannic oxide, tungstic oxide, gelatine, agar, nitrocellulose and even egg albumin. It is the final ingredient, not well documented, that has us really intrigued.

By creating an aerogel with egg albumin we have the potential to make, for the first time since the 1930s, the world’s lightest meringue and one that looks like a piece of sky.

As we chart the course of this desserts history, the next question to be answered is how will it taste?

History of awe and wonder
We have been interested in the aerogel from a little time now, not least because of its wobbly provenance. The material was discovered though an academic bet about jellies, the quivering deacon of deserts. This was won by chemist Samuel Kistler (in 1931) who successfully removed the liquid component of a gel, replacing it with gas and keeping the internal gel matrix intact – a heroic feat in our eyes.

Though aerogels are known to be some of the world’s best insulators, Kistler didn’t see the widespread use of the super-light solids in his lifetime. It was simply too expensive to manufacture. But now the global scientific community is finding increasingly creative and outlandish uses for them.

An aerogel matrix was used by NASA in 1999 on the Stardust mission where a spacecraft was launch to intercept the comet Wild 2 as it hurtled from the far reaches of the solar system and approached its centre as it does every 6.5 years. Intercepting the comet on 2nd January 2004 the spacecraft was able to manoeuvre itself in to the slipstream 237 km behind it and collect, for the first time in human history, virgin comet dust. This is currently being analysed to help build our knowledge about ‘the most profound questions of our solar system’ according to Tom Duxbury of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Aerogel is also being evaluated by the US Navy for use in undergarments as passive thermal protection for divers and as a drug delivery system owing to its biocompatibility.

Taste the Sky
King Abdulaziz Centre of World Culture (Ithra), Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

10-26 October 2019 
Monday-Thursday: 9:00 am - 9:00 pm