Chemphyschem : a European journal of chemical physics and physical chemistry

Sol-to-Gel Transition in Fast Evaporating Systems Observed by in Situ Time-Resolved Infrared Spectroscopy.

PMID 25891296


The in situ observation of a sol-to-gel transition in fast evaporating systems is a challenging task and the lack of a suitable experimental design, which includes the chemistry and the analytical method, has limited the observations. We synthesise an acidic sol, employing only tetraethylorthosilicate, SiCl4 as catalyst and deuterated water; the absence of water added to the sol allows us to follow the absorption from the external environment and the evaporation of deuterated water. The time-resolved data, obtained by attenuated total reflection infrared spectroscopy on an evaporating droplet, enables us to identify four different stages during evaporation. They are linked to specific hydrolysis and condensation rates that affect the uptake of water from external environment. The second stage is characterized by a decrease in hydroxyl content, a fast rise of condensation rate and an almost stationary absorption of water. This stage has been associated with the sol-to-gel transition.