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Hierarchically porous and mechanically stable monoliths from ordered mesoporous silica and their water filtration potential

Henning, Laura M.; Müller, Julian T.; Smales, Glen J.; Pauw, Brian R.; Schmidt, Johannes; Bekheet, Maged F.; Gurlo, Aleksander; Simon, Ulla

Mechanically stable structures with interconnected hierarchical porosity combine the benefits of both small and large pores, such as high surface area, pore volume, and good mass transport capabilities. Hence, lightweight micro-/meso-/macroporous monoliths are prepared from ordered mesoporous silica COK-12 by means of spark plasma sintering (SPS, S-sintering) and compared to conventionally (C-) sintered monoliths. A multi-scale model is developed to fit the small angle X-ray scattering data and obtain information on the hexagonal lattice parameters, pore sizes from the macro to the micro range, as well as the dimensions of the silica population. For both sintering techniques, the overall mesoporosity, hexagonal pore ordering, and amorphous character are preserved. The monoliths' porosity (77–49%), mesopore size (6.2–5.2 nm), pore volume (0.50–0.22 g cm−3), and specific surface area (451–180 m2 g−1) decrease with increasing processing temperature and pressure. While the difference in porosity is enhanced, the structural parameters between the C-and S-sintered monoliths are largely converging at 900 °C, except for the mesopore size and lattice parameter, whose dimensions are more extensively preserved in the S-sintered monoliths, however, coming along with larger deviations from the theoretical lattice. Their higher mechanical properties (biaxial strength up to 49 MPa, 724 MPa HV 9.807 N) at comparable porosities and ability to withstand ultrasonic treatment and dead-end filtration up to 7 bar allow S-sintered monoliths to reach a high permeance (2634 L m−2 h−1 bar−1), permeability (1.25 × 10−14 m2), and ability to reduce the chemical oxygen demand by 90% during filtration of a surfactant-stabilized oil in water emulsion, while indicating reasonable resistance towards fouling.
Published in: Nanoscale advances, 10.1039/D2NA00368F, Royal Society of Chemistry