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Size Control of Dendrimer-Templated Silica

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journal contribution
posted on 01.03.2005, 00:00 by Marc R. Knecht, Sarah L. Sewell, David W. Wright
One of the most significant challenges facing the biomimetic synthesis of materials is achieving the requisite level of dimensional and spatial control. Typical reaction conditions for biomimetic silica synthesis allow for continued growth and ripening leading to the formation of larger nanospheres on the order of 200−600 nm in diameter. Herein, we have used polyamidoamine and polypropylenimine dendrimers as templates to expand the reaction conditions of biogenic silica production to produce a more robust synthesis leading to size-selective precipitation of silica nanospheres. Through the use of defined concentrations of phosphate buffer and main group metal chloride salts, we have shown that the biomimetic silica growth process is controlled by cationic neutralization of the anionic silica nanosphere surface. Neutralization minimizes electrostatic repulsions, allowing for agglomerization and continued growth of nanospheres. By controlling these concentrations, we can selectively produce silica nanospheres of desired dimensions between 30 and 300 nm without adversely affecting the template's activity.