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Sol-gel hybrids are inorganic/organic co-networks with nanoscale interactions between the components leading to unique synergistic mechanical properties, which can be tailored, via a selection of the organic moiety. Methacrylate based polymers present several benefits for class II hybrids (which exhibit formal covalent bonding between the networks) as they introduce great versatility and can be designed with a variety of chemical side-groups, structures and morphologies. In this study, the effect of high cross-linking density polymers on the structure-property relationships of hybrids generated using poly(3-trimethoxysilylpropyl methacrylate) (pTMSPMA) and tetraethyl orthosilicate (TEOS) was investigated. The complexity and fine scale of the co-network interactions requires the development of new analytical methods to understand how network evolution dictates the wide-ranging mechanical properties. Within this work we developed data manipulation techniques of acoustic-AFM and solid state NMR output that provide new approaches to understand the influence of the network structure on the macroscopic elasticity. The concentration of pTMSPMA in the silica sol affected the gelation time, ranging from 2 h for a hybrid made with 75 wt% inorganic with pTMSPMA at 2.5 kDa, to 1 minute for pTMSPMA with molecular weight of 30 kDa without any TEOS. A new mechanism of gelation was proposed based on the different morphologies derived by AC-AFM observations. We established that the volumetric density of bridging oxygen bonds is an important parameter in structure/property relationships in SiO2 hybrids and developed a method for determining it from solid state NMR data. The variation in the elasticity of pTMSPMA/SiO2 hybrids originated from pTMSPMA acting as a molecular spacer, thus decreasing the volumetric density of bridging oxygen bonds as the inorganic to organic ratio decreased.

Original publication




Journal article


Phys Chem Chem Phys

Publication Date





29124 - 29133


Dynamic Light Scattering, Elastic Modulus, Gels, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Methacrylates, Microscopy, Atomic Force, Phase Transition, Polymers, Silicon Dioxide, Thermogravimetry