Scientific reports

Alcohols react with MCM-41 at room temperature and chemically modify mesoporous silica.

PMID 28855555


Mesoporous silica has received much attention due to its well-defined structural order, high surface area, and tunable pore diameter. To successfully employ mesoporous silica for nanotechnology applications it is important to consider how it is influenced by solvent molecules due to the fact that most preparation procedures involve treatment in various solvents. In the present work we contribute to this important topic with new results on how MCM-41 is affected by a simple treatment in alcohol at room temperature. The effects of alcohol treatment are characterized by TGA, FTIR, and sorption calorimetry. The results are clear and show that treatment of MCM-41 in methanol, ethanol, propanol, butanol, pentanol, or octanol at room temperature introduces alkoxy groups that are covalently bound to the silica surface. It is shown that alcohol treated MCM-41 becomes more hydrophobic and that this effect is sequentially more prominent going from methanol to octanol. Chemical formation of alkoxy groups onto MCM-41 occurs both for calcined and hydroxylated MCM-41 and the alkoxy groups are hydrolytically unstable and can be replaced by silanol groups after exposure to water. The results are highly relevant for mesoporous silica applications that involve contact or treatment in protic solvents, which is very common.

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tert-Butanol, ≥99% (GC)