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Liquid-crystalline phases as templates for the synthesis of mesoporous silica



THE synthesis of inorganic mesoporous materials using ionic surfactant template molecules was first reported in 19921,2, and surfactant-mediated synthesis has since been used to form a variety of mesoporous materials3–8. Such materials could find application in catalysis, membrane and separation technology, and molecular engineering. Previous syntheses have used low surfactant concen-trations, and the templating mechanism (which is still controversial) is thought to be a cooperative process involving the interaction of inorganic ions with discrete surfactant aggregates1,2,5,9. Here we report the templating of silica mesostructures from ordered liquid-crystalline mesophases: the resulting silica phase, with pores of 3 nm diameter, is a cast of the organic mesophase. As the phase diagram of the surfactant/silica/water system at high surfactant concentration is similar to the (known) phase diagram of surfactant/water alone, this approach should introduce an element of predictability into the synthesis of mesoporous materials.

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