Microscopic patterning of orientated mesoscopic silica through guided growth


The supramolecular assembly of surfactant molecules at a solid–liquid interface can produce tubular structures with diameters of around 10 nm (refs 1,2,3,4), which can be used for the templated polymerization of mesoporous silica thin films3,4,5. The orientation of the tubules depends primarily on the nature of the substrate–surfactant interaction. These nanostructured films hold much promise for applications such as their use as orientated nanowires6, sensor/actuator arrays7,8,9 and optoelectronic devices10. But a method of patterning the tubules and orientating them into designed arrangements is required for many of these possibilities to be realized. Here we describe a method that allows the direction of growth of these tubules to be guided by infiltrating a reaction fluid into the microcapillaries of a mould in contact with a substrate11. An electric field applied tangentially to the surface within the capillaries induces electro-osmotic flow, and also enhances the rates of silica polymerization around the tubules by localized Joule heating. After removal of the mould, patterned bundles of orientated nanotubules remain on the surface. This method permits the formation of orientated mesoporous channels on a non-conducting substrate with an arbitrary microscopic pattern.

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Figure 1: Schematic illustration of the technique used to induce guided growth of mesoscopic silicate structures.
Figure 2: SEM images of 1-µm line (a) and two-dimensional (b) mesoscopic silicate patterns formed by guided growth within microc.
Figure 3: a and b, TEM images of a patterned mesoscopic silica structure grown on a Thermanox plastic substrate (Electron Microscopy S.


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We thank L. Zhou, P. Fenter and P. M. Eisenberger for the X-ray diffraction characterization of the films. This work was supported by a MURI grant from the US Army Research Office and made use of the central facilities supported by an MRSEC programme of the NSF.

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Correspondence to I. A. Aksay.

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Trau, M., Yao, N., Kim, E. et al. Microscopic patterning of orientated mesoscopic silica through guided growth. Nature 390, 674–676 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1038/37764

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