The aim was to determine the most effective calcium precursor for synthesis of sol-gel hybrids and for improving homogeneity of sol-gel bioactive glasses. Sol-gel derived bioactive calcium silicate glasses are one of the most promising materials for bone regeneration. Inorganic/organic hybrid materials, which are synthesized by incorporating a polymer into the sol-gel process, have also recently been produced to improve toughness. Calcium nitrate is conventionally used as the calcium source, but it has several disadvantages. Calcium nitrate causes inhomogeneity by forming calcium-rich regions, and it requires high temperature treatment (>400 °C) for calcium to be incorporated into the silicate network. Nitrates are also toxic and need to be burnt off. Calcium nitrate therefore cannot be used in the synthesis of hybrids as the highest temperature used in the process is typically 40-60 °C. Therefore, a different precursor is needed that can incorporate calcium into the silica network and enhance the homogeneity of the glasses at low (room) temperature. In this work, calcium methoxyethoxide (CME) was used to synthesize sol-gel bioactive glasses with a range of final processing temperatures from 60 to 800 °C. Comparison is made between the use of CME and calcium chloride and calcium nitrate. Using advanced probe techniques, the temperature at which Ca is incorporated into the network was identified for 70S30C (70 mol % SiO(2), 30 mol % CaO) for each of the calcium precursors. When CaCl(2) was used, the Ca did not seem to enter the network at any of the temperatures used. In contrast, Ca from CME entered the silica network at room temperature, as confirmed by X-ray diffraction, (29)Si magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and dissolution studies. CME should be used in preference to calcium salts for hybrid synthesis and may improve homogeneity of sol-gel glasses.
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