Early Formation Pathways of Surfactant Micelle Directed Ultrasmall Silica Ring and Cage Structures

Kai Ma, Katherine A. Spoth, Ying Cong, Duhan Zhang, Tangi Aubert, Melik Z. Turker, Lena F. Kourkoutis, Eduardo Mendes, Ulrich Wiesner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


By combining a surfactant, an organic pore expander, a silane, and poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG), we have observed the formation of a previously unknown set of ultrasmall silica structures in aqueous solutions. At appropriate concentrations of reagents, â2 nm primary silica clusters arrange around surfactant micelles to form ultrasmall silica rings, which can further evolve into cage-like structures. With increasing concentration, these rings line up into segmented worm-like one-dimensional (1D) structures, an effect that can be dramatically enhanced by PEG addition. PEG adsorbed 1D striped cylinders further arrange into higher order assemblies in the form of two-dimensional (2D) sheets or three-dimensional (3D) helical structures. Results provide insights into synergies between deformable noncovalent organic molecule assemblies and covalent inorganic network formation as well as early transformation pathways from spherical soft materials into 1D, 2D, and 3D silica solution structures, hallmarks of mesoporous silica materials formation. The ultrasmall silica ring and cage structures may prove useful in nanomedicine and other nanotechnology based applications.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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