Fabrication of Titania and Titania-Silica Aerogels using Rapid Supercritical Extraction.


Titania (TiO2) and titania–silica (TiSi) aerogels are suitable for photocatalytic oxidation of volatile organic compounds for pollution mitigation; however, methods for fabricating these aerogels can be complex. In this work we describe the use of a rapid supercritical extraction (RSCE) technique to prepare TiO2 and TiSi aerogels in as little as 8 h. The RSCE technique uses a metal mold and a four-step hydraulic hot press procedure to bring the solvents in the sol–gel pores to a supercritical state and control the supercritical fluid release process. Resulting TiO2 aerogels were powdery with BET surface areas of 130–180 m2/g, pore volumes ~0.5 cm3/g and skeletal densities of 3.6 g/mL. Monolithic TiSi aerogels were made using two different methods. An impregnation process, in which titania precursor was added to a silica sol–gel, took 4–8 days to complete with a 7-h RSCE and resulted in translucent aerogels with high surface area (560–650 m2/g) and pore volume (2.0–2.6 cm3/g), bulk densities ranging from 0.1 to 0.4 g/mL and skeletal densities of 2.3 g/mL. A co-precursor method for preparing TiSi aerogels took 8 h to complete. The precursor chemical mixture was poured directly into the mold and processed in a 7-h RSCE process. The resulting aerogels were opaque, with high surface areas (510–580 m2/g), low bulk density (0.03 g/mL), skeletal densities of 2 g/mL and pore volumes of 2.6–3.5 cm3/g. Preliminary solar simulator studies show that TiO2 and TiSi aerogels are capable of photocatalytic degradation of methylene blue in aqueous solution.

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