Production of low-density sodium silicate-based hydrophobic silica aerogel beads by a novel fast gelation process and ambient pressure drying process
We report a method to synthesize low-density transparent mesoporous silica aerogel beads by ambient pressure drying (APD). The beads were prepared by acid-base sol-gel polymerization of sodium silicate in aqueous ammonia solution via the ball dropping method (BDM). To minimize shrinkage during drying, wet silica beads were initially prepared; their surfaces were then modified using trimethylchlorosilane (TMCS) via simultaneous solvent exchange and surface modification. The effects of the volume percentage (%V) of TMCS on the physical and textural properties of the beads were investigated. The specific surface area and cumulative pore volume of the silica aerogel beads increased with an increase in the %V of TMCS. Silica aerogel beads with low packing bed density (0.081 g/cm 3), high surface area (917 m 2/g), and large cumulative pore volume (2.8 cm 3/g) was obtained when 10%V TMCS was used. Properties of the final product were examined by FE-SEM, TEM, BET, and TG-DT analyses. Surface chemical modifications were confirmed by FTIR spectroscopy. The hydrophobic silica aerogel beads were thermally stable up to 411 °C. We discuss our results and compare our findings for modified versus unmodified silica beads.