Fine Tuning Sol-gel Synthesis and Further Applications

Thumbnail Image

Publication or External Link





Sol-gel synthesis consists of the hydrolysis and polycondensation of alkoxide precursors to result in a glass-like material. Within these sol-gels, properties of the bulk liquids can be regulated by pore size of the sol-gels. Previous research has suggested that the mechanical stresses are predominant during the drying process of the sol-gel synthesis because the constrained sol-gels must shrink and debond from the substrate. Although the sol-gels may not fracture during this stage, increased stress may cause cracking as they are subject to higher temperatures during the firing process. This experiment involves modifying the procedure to assist in separating the gel from the substrate and reducing the effect of higher temperatures during the firing process. Major results to date have centered around optimization of the sol-gel synthesis process and production of gels with good optical quality. Through calculated edits to the procedure such as troubleshooting the amount of stir time, temperature, and adding new reagents such as RainX in the polyethylene tubes, yield has increased by 84% from our first to most recent batches prior to firing. After successful synthesis, the sol-gels can be used to study the behavior of monomers and confined liquids through optical spectroscopy. Future projects include immersion in a monomer with rhodamine 6G dye to create fluorescent nanoparticles controlled by the pores of the gel.