Sharp, K.G. & Scherer, G.W. Journal of Sol-Gel Science and Technology (1997) 8: 165. doi:10.1023/A:1026464918986
Silica gels can be made by direct reaction of formic acid with tetraethyl orthosilicate. We have characterized wet gels of this type using a beam-bending technique that yields the elastic modulus, Poisson's ratio, viscoelastic relaxation function, and permeability. When the experiment is performed in ethyl formate, the silica network behaves in an elastic fashion; the permeability is low (<1 nm2), indicating a pore radius of <4.3 nm. The capillary pressure generated in such small pores is estimated to be sufficient to cause collapse of the pores during drying, which would account for the observed ultramicropores in this type of gel. When the pore liquid contains formic acid, viscoelastic relaxation is relatively rapid. Studies of cyclosiloxane compounds indicate that formic acid can attack only the strained siloxane bonds of the network, which would account for the relaxation behavior. Aging in formic acid causes rapid initial shrinkage, because formic acid accelerates condensation of silanols, which drives syneresis; the modulus increases and the permeability decreases monotonically, so there is no indication of coarsening during aging in formic acid, even at 70°C.