Hydrophobic Silica Aerogels Prepared via Rapid Supercritical Extraction


Hydrophobic silica aerogels have been prepared using the rapid supercritical extraction (RSCE) technique. The RSCE technique is a one-step methanol supercritical extraction method for producing aerogel monoliths in 3 to 8 h. Standard aerogels were prepared from a tetramethoxysilane (TMOS) recipe with a molar ratio of TMOS:MeOH:H2O:NH4OH of 1.0:12.0:4.0:7.4 × 10−3. Hydrophobic aerogels were prepared using the same recipe except the TMOS was replaced with a mixture of TMOS and one of the following organosilane co-precursors: methytrimethoxysilane (MTMS), ethyltrimethoxysilane (ETMS), or propyltrimeth-oxysilane (PTMS). Results show that, by increasing the amount of catalyst and increasing gelation time, monolithic aerogels can be prepared out of volume mixtures including up to 75% MTMS, 50% ETMS or 50% PTMS in 7.5–15 h. As the amount of co-precursor is increased the aerogels become more hydrophobic (sessile tests with water droplets yield contact angles up to 155°) and less transparent (transmission through a 12.2-mm thick sample decreases from 83 to 50% at 800 nm). The skeletal and bulk density decrease and the surface area increases (550–760 m2/g) when TMOS is substituted with increasing amounts of MTMS. The amount of co-precursor does not affect the thermal conductivity. SEM imaging shows significant differences in the nanostructure for the most hydrophobic surfaces.

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