Preparation of Colloidal Organosilica Spheres through Spontaneous Emulsification

Casper Van Der Wel, Rohit K. Bhan, Ruben W. Verweij, Hans C. Frijters, Zhe Gong, Andrew D. Hollingsworth, Stefano Sacanna, Daniela J. Kraft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colloidal particles of controlled size are promising building blocks for the self-assembly of functional materials. Here, we systematically study a method to synthesize monodisperse, micrometer-sized spheres from 3-(trimethoxysilyl)propyl methacrylate (TPM) in a benchtop experiment. Their ease of preparation, smoothness, and physical properties provide distinct advantages over other widely employed materials such as silica, polystyrene, and poly(methyl methacrylate). We describe that the spontaneous emulsification of TPM droplets in water is caused by base-catalyzed hydrolysis, self-condensation, and the deprotonation of TPM. By studying the time-dependent size evolution, we find that the droplet size increases without any detectable secondary nucleation. Resulting TPM droplets are polymerized to form solid particles. The particle diameter can be controlled in the range of 0.4 to 2.8 μm by adjusting the volume fraction of added monomer and the pH of the solution. Droplets can be grown to diameters of up to 4 μm by adding TPM monomer after the initial emulsification. Additionally, we characterize various physical parameters of the TPM particles, and we describe methods to incorporate several fluorescent dyes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8174-8180
Number of pages7
Issue number33
StatePublished - Aug 22 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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