Interaction of Formic Acid with the Silica Gel Network

Kenneth G. Sharp, George W. Scherer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-171
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Sol-Gel Science and Technology
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • General Chemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry


  • Aging
  • Formic acid
  • Modulus
  • Permeability
  • Pore size
  • Shrinkage
  • Syneresis
  • Viscoelasticity


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