ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, 2019, vol 11, 21, pp. 19308-19314
The processing of mesoporous inorganic coatings typically requires a high-temperature calcination step to remove organic precursors that are essential during the material assembly. Lowering the fabrication energy costs and cutting back on the necessary resources would provide a greater scope for the deployment in applications such as architectural glass, optical components, photovoltaic cells, and energy storage, as well as further compatibilize substrates with low temperature stability. Organic removal methods based on UVozone treatment are increasing in popularity, but concerns remain regarding large-scale ozone generation and usage of mercury-containing UV lamps. To this end, we present a method that relies on non-ozone-generating UV radiation at 254 nm (UV254) and incorporation of small amounts of photocatalytic material in the formulation, here demonstrated with TiO2 nanocrystals. At concentrations as low as 5 wt % relative to the main inorganic aluminosilicate material, the TiO2 nanocrystals catalyze a cold combustion of the organic components under UV254 irradiation to reveal a porous inorganic network. Using block copolymer-based co-assembly in conjunction with photocatalytic template removal, we produce well-defined mesoporous inorganic thin films with controlled porosity and refractive index values, where the required processing time is governed by the amount of TiO2 loading. This approach provides an inexpensive, flexible, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional organic removal techniques, such as UVozone degradation and thermal calcination.