By employing novel hybrid silica/functional polymer aerogels, control of the course of chemical reactions between reactants confined inside of the aerogels with reactants whose access to the confinement domain is controlled by diffusion has been explored. Thus, monolithic silica/biopolymer hybrid aerogels have been synthesized with coordinated metal ions that can react with amino acids, such as L-cysteine, that are provided externally in a surrounding solution. Metal ions, such as Au(III), that can react in solution with the amino acid to produce one set of products under a given set of stoichiometric or concentration conditions, and a different set of products under a second set of conditions, were selected for incorporation into the aerogel. It was discovered that the course of the reaction can be changed by spatial confinement of the reaction domain in the aerogel. For example, in the case of Au(III) and L-cysteine, the Au(III) ions are confined in nanoscale domains, and when they are reacted with the amino acid, the nature of the reaction products is controlled by diffusion of the L-cysteine into the domains. Exploration of these and related phenomena will be presented.
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Liu, X., Yao, C. & Risen, W. Chemically Selective Reactions in Confined Spaces in Hybrid Aerogels. MRS Online Proceedings Library 899, 606 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-0899-N06-06