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General Method for the Synthesis of Hierarchical Nanocrystal-Based Mesoporous Materials


Block copolymer templating of inorganic materials is a robust method for the production of nanoporous materials. The method is limited, however, by the fact that the molecular inorganic precursors commonly used generally form amorphous porous materials that often cannot be crystallized with retention of porosity. To overcome this issue, here we present a general method for the production of templated mesoporous materials from preformed nanocrystal building blocks. The work takes advantage of recent synthetic advances that allow organic ligands to be stripped off of the surface of nanocrystals to produce soluble, charge-stabilized colloids. Nanocrystals then undergo evaporation-induced co-assembly with amphiphilic diblock copolymers to form a nanostructured inorganic/organic composite. Thermal degradation of the polymer template results in nanocrystal-based mesoporous materials. Here, we show that this method can be applied to nanocrystals with a broad range of compositions and sizes, and that assembly of nanocrystals can be carried out using a broad family of polymer templates. The resultant materials show disordered but homogeneous mesoporosity that can be tuned through the choice of template. The materials also show significant microporosity, formed by the agglomerated nanocrystals, and this porosity can be tuned by the nanocrystal size. We demonstrate through careful selection of the synthetic components that specifically designed nanostructured materials can be constructed. Because of the combination of open and interconnected porosity, high surface area, and compositional tunability, these materials are likely to find uses in a broad range of applications. For example, enhanced charge storage kinetics in nanoporous Mn3O4 is demonstrated here.