Silica-based fibers with axially aligned mesopores from chitin self-assembly and sol-gel chemistry

Bruno Alonso*, Nathalie Witczak, Cyril Vallicari, Bastien Lecourt-Capdeville, Mathis Guiraud, Laurent Vachoud, Krassimir L. Kostov, Stefan Spirk, Gregor Trimmel, Emmanuel Belamie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Polysaccharide nanorods (chitin, cellulose) can be used as colloidal templates to form silica-based mesoporous materials by combining self-assembly and sol-gel chemistry. Chitin nanorods are chosen here for their self-assembly properties, facile preparation from natural resources, and because of the complexing properties of the free amino groups at their surface in view of further functionalization. Electrospinning of ethanolic co-suspensions, containing the chitin nanorods as pore templates, siloxane oligomers as silica precursors and polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) as spinning polymer, allows for forming mats of hybrid organic-inorganic fibers with diameters in the 200–300 nm range. The relative proportions of each component can be adjusted to meet specific characteristics (e.g. micro-/mesoporosity ratio). After calcination, the fibers present an open porosity studied by TEM and N2 volumetry. Elongated mesopores (100–200 nm long, 2–4 nm wide) are created by individual chitin monocrystals forming the nanorods. They are highly oriented along the fibers' axes with orientational order parameters P2 > 0.95 for volume chitin contents φchitin* ≥ 0.2. Additional microporosity is provided by the removal of the spinning polymer, PVP. Complementary viscosity measurements on the initial co-suspensions allow discussing the interactions between colloids and their possible impact on the materials’ textures observed. The introduction of a monomeric Ti4+ precursor in the co-suspensions leads to isolated and tetrahedral Ti units, distributed in the calcined porous silica fibers and possibly close to the pores surface. In addition, preliminary investigations on processing the fibers with a Zn xanthate as ZnS precursor leads to carbonized fibers with nanoparticles and a Zn/S molar ratio close to 1.

Original languageEnglish
Article number112057
JournalMicroporous and Mesoporous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • Chitin nanorods
  • Electrospinning
  • Fibers
  • Self-assembly
  • Sol-gel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials

Fields of Expertise

  • Advanced Materials Science


  • NAWI Graz


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