Mesoporous Research

Designed Synthesis of Novel Mesoporous Materials


Research Highlights​

Three in one: "A Tri-continuous Mesoporous Material with A Silica Pore Wall Following A Hexagonal Minimal Surface ”


​​A tri-continuous pore structure (IBN-9) is synthesized using a specially designed cationic surfactant template. It consists of three identical continuous interpenetrating channels, which are separated by a single silica wall that follows a branched hexagonal minimal surface. Such​ a tri-continuous mesostructure was predicted mathematically, but until now has not been observed in real materials.​ This complicated mesoporous structure is resolved by electron crystallography based on three high-resolution TEM images. 

This work was published in Nature Chemistry as a cover story and was selected by Nature as a research highlight.​

  • Yu Han, Daliang Zhang, Leng Leng Chng, Junliang Sun, Lan Zhao, Xiaodong Zou and Jackie Y. Ying, Nature Chemistry 1 (2009), 123-127 (Cover story; Highlighted by Nature 458 (2009), 683)​. 

          Subject Categories: Inorganic chemistry | Materials chemistry

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 Extended Research
 1. Controlled synthesis of the tricontinuous mesoporous material IBN-9 and its carbon and platinum derivatives
This is an extened study of the above pioneer work. Synthesis space diagrams are carefully investigated that prove the mesophase transition among the cylindrical MCM-41, tri-continuous IBN-9 and bi-continuous MCM-48. Also, rational design of structure-directing agents offers a possibility to extend the synthesis conditions of IBN-9 as well as tailor its pore size. Moreover, an unprecedented helical structure consisting of twisted 3-fold interwoven mesoporous channels is reported here for the first time.  By “hard-templating” approach, the unique tri-continuous mesostructure of IBN-9 is well replicated by other functional materials (e.g. carbon and platinum) . The obtained carbon material exhibits remarkable gas adsorption capability at both cryogenic temperatures and room temperature. The platinum material has an ordered mesostructure composed of highly oriented nanocrystals.

  • Yunfeng Zhao, Daliang Zhang, Lan Zhao, Guangchao Wang, Yihan Zhu, Amy Cairns, Junliang Sun, Xiaodong Zou, Yu Han*, Chem. Mater. 23 (2011), 3775–3786 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            3775–3786      end_of_the_skype_highlighting​.
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2. Fabrication of the Tri-continuous IBN-9 Structure using Commercial Surfactant CTAB
Despite of many interesting features that tri-continuous IBN-9 exhibits, the requirement of using a special non-commercially available surfactant much inhibits extensive investigation of this new structure and relevant studies. Therefore, it is highly desirable to develop new synthesis routes to enable the fabrication of this brand new mesostructure with simpler and commercially available surfactants. In our recent study, we report that the tri-continuous IBN-9 structure can be synthesized from the most common quaternary ammonium surfactants such as cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB) with the help of polar organic additives e.g. n-butanol. The role of butanol is to finely tune the surface curvature of the organic/inorganic interface during the cooperative self-assembly process. This study reveals the possibility of discovering unprecedented mesostructures from the conventional surfactant-water-silicates systems.​

  • Yunfeng Zhao, Lan Zhao, and Yu Han*, (2011, Chem. Mater. accepted)