A silica sol-gel design strategy for nanostructured metallic materials

S.C. Warren, M.R. Perkins, A.M. Adams, M.M.G. Kamperman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

97 Citations (Scopus)


Batteries, fuel cells and solar cells, among many other high-current-density devices, could benefit from the precise meso- to macroscopic structure control afforded by the silica sol–gel process. The porous materials made by silica sol–gel chemistry are typically insulators, however, which has restricted their application. Here we present a simple, yet highly versatile silica sol–gel process built around a multifunctional sol–gel precursor that is derived from the following: amino acids, hydroxy acids or peptides; a silicon alkoxide; and a metal acetate. This approach allows a wide range of biological functionalities and metals—including noble metals—to be combined into a library of sol–gel materials with a high degree of control over composition and structure. We demonstrate that the sol–gel process based on these precursors is compatible with block-copolymer self-assembly, colloidal crystal templating and the Stöber process. As a result of the exceptionally high metal content, these materials can be thermally processed to make porous nanocomposites with metallic percolation networks that have an electrical conductivity of over 1,000¿S¿cm-1. This improves the electrical conductivity of porous silica sol–gel nanocomposites by three orders of magnitude over existing approaches, opening applications to high-current-density devices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-467
JournalNature Materials
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • single-source precursors
  • electrical-properties
  • transparent conductors
  • oxygen reduction
  • thin-films
  • fuel-cells
  • complexes
  • oxide
  • fabrication
  • electrodes


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