High-resolution cryogenic-electron microscopy reveals details of a hexagonal-to-bicontinuous cubic phase transition in mesoporous silica synthesis.

Abstract

We studied the structural evolution during the formation of large-pore cubic Ia3d silica-based mesoporous materials, synthesized with Pluroinc P123 and butanol as structure directing agents. We used cryogenic high resolution scanning electron microscopy (cryo-HRSEM) and freeze-fracture-replication (FFR) transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Typically a silica precursor is added to an acid-catalyzed solution of Pluronic P123 and butanol. The latter serves as a cosolute, which can be added either at the beginning of the reaction, or after precipitation and the formation of a hexagonal phase. In this study we focused on the structural evolution from the hexagonal phase to the final cubic phase in the two different reactions. The same structural evolution with different kinetics was detected for both reactions. Cryo-HRSEM and FFR-TEM images revealed that from the hexagonal phase a perforated layer (PL) phase is formed, which later evolves into a bicontinuous structure. The final cubic phase forms within the layers, maintaining their orientation. We suggest a formation mechanism involving cylinder merging for the hexagonal to PL transition. Upon additional polymerization of the silica, the PL phase relaxes into the stable Ia3d cubic phase. Another minor mechanism detected involves the direct transition between the hexagonal to the final cubic phase through cylinder branching.

DOI: 10.1021/ja903178f

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Cite this paper

@article{Omer2009HighresolutionCM, title={High-resolution cryogenic-electron microscopy reveals details of a hexagonal-to-bicontinuous cubic phase transition in mesoporous silica synthesis.}, author={Liora Omer and Sharon Ruthstein and Daniella Goldfarb and Yeshayahu Talmon}, journal={Journal of the American Chemical Society}, year={2009}, volume={131 34}, pages={12466-73} }