Resolving intermediate solution structures during the formation of mesoporous SBA-15

Sharon Ruthstein, Judith Schmidt, Ellina Kesselman, Yeshayahu Talmon, Daniella Goldfarb

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48 Scopus citations


The evolution of the solution microstructures during the formation of the hexagonal mesoporous material SBA-15 was studied by direct imaging and freeze-fracture replication cryo-TEM. A reaction mixture was sampled at different times after the addition of tetramethoxyorthosilane (TMOS) to an acidic solution of Pluronic P123 held at 50 °C. Solution microstructures were detected by direct imaging cryo-TEM in the time window of 6.5-40 min after the addition of the TMOS (t = 0). The micrographs revealed that the initial spheroidal micelles evolve into threadlike micelles, which become longer and straighter with time. Then bundles with the dimensions similar to those found in the final material appeared, although there was no sign of a hexagonal arrangement up to 40 min. Due to the appearance of a precipitate at 40 min the sample became too viscous, preventing clear observation of its content. To observe the structures present after 40 min, freeze-fracture replication was carried out as well. Such samples were collected also at 22 min and showed the presence of threadlike micelles in agreement with the direct imaging cryo-TEM micrographs. The 2 h samples showed some areas of hexagonal ordered structures, which become very clear at 2 h 50 min. The cryo-TEM measurements were carried out under the same reaction conditions used in earlier in situ EPR experiments, thus allowing us to correlate molecular level events with the microstructure shape evolutions. This showed that the elongation of the micelles is a consequence of a reduction of the polarity and the water content within the micelles due to silicate adsorption and polymerization. Similar experiments were carried out also on SBA-15 prepared with HCI and TMOS at 35 °C. The appearance of threadlike micelles, followed by clustering of the TLMs, was observed under these conditions as well, but the reaction rate was faster. This suggests that the observed mechanism for the formation of SBA-15 is general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3366-3374
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number10
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2006
Externally publishedYes


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