Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 42, Issue 15, pp 6018–6026 | Cite as

Beach sand from Cancun Mexico: a natural macro- and mesoporous material

  • Hui Chen
  • Jinhai Wang
  • Zia ur Rahman
  • James G. Worden
  • Xiong Liu
  • Qiu Dai
  • Qun Huo


Sand particles from Cancun, Mexico were studied using a number of advanced spectroscopic and microscopic techniques. The main chemical composition of sand particles was confirmed to be calcium carbonate by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and IR spectroscopic analysis. X-ray diffraction analysis revealed that the sand particles are aragonite, which has an Orthorhombic—Dipyramidal crystal structure. The morphological study of the sand particles by scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy revealed the presence of a highly porous channel-like structure in the sand particles. The sorption isotherm indicates that Cancun sand is a mesoporous material. The specific surface area of Cancun sand was determined to be 2.259 m2/g by BET measurement, which is significantly higher than that of Florida sand and other forms of natural aragonite and calcite. Furthermore, it was found that the porous sand particles can adsorb gold nanoparticles of the size of a few nanometers very efficiently. The distribution of gold nanoparticles demonstrated a channel-like porous inner structure of the sand particles. We also prepared a polymer composite material by mixing the sand particles with a poly(methyl methacrylate) matrix. SEM analysis of the composite materials showed a good interfacial adhesion between sand particles and polymer matrix. These results suggest that Cancun sand, as a natural macro- and mesoporous material, may find promising applications in filtration, pollution control, composite materials and biomaterials development.


PMMA Gold Nanoparticles Aragonite Sand Particle Sand Sample 



We want to thank Dr. Joseph Brennan for collecting the sand samples for this project. Partial work reported here was supported by National Science Foundation CAREER award (DMR 0552295) and National Science Foundation NIRT award (DMI 0506531).

Supplementary material

10853_2006_970_MOESM1_ESM.doc (4.3 mb)
Supplementary material, approximately 4.4 MB.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hui Chen
    • 1
  • Jinhai Wang
    • 1
  • Zia ur Rahman
    • 2
  • James G. Worden
    • 1
  • Xiong Liu
    • 1
  • Qiu Dai
    • 1
  • Qun Huo
    • 1
  1. 1.Nanoscience Technology Center, Department of Chemistry, Department of Mechanical Materials, and Aerospace EngineeringUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  2. 2.Materials Characterization Facility, Advanced Materials Processing & Analysis Center (AMPAC)University of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

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