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Langmuir. 2009 Mar 3;25(5):2711-7. doi: 10.1021/la803546r.

Hollow silica spheres: synthesis and mechanical properties.

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Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Ackermannweg 10, 55128 Mainz, Germany.


Core-shell polystyrene-silica spheres with diameters of 800 nm and 1.9 microm were synthesized by soap-free emulsion and dispersion polymerization of the polystyrene core, respectively. The polystyrene spheres were used as templates for the synthesis of silica shells of tunable thickness employing the Stöber method [Graf et al. Langmuir 2003, 19, 6693]. The polystyrene template was removed by thermal decomposition at 500 degrees C, resulting in smooth silica shells of well-defined thickness (15-70 nm). The elastic response of these hollow spheres was probed by atomic force microscopy (AFM). A point load was applied to the particle surface through a sharp AFM tip, and successively increased until the shell broke. In agreement with the predictions of shell theory, for small deformations the deformation increased linearly with applied force. The Young's modulus (18 +/- 6 GPa) was about 4 times smaller than that of fused silica [Adachi and Sakka J. Mater. Sci. 1990, 25, 4732] but identical to that of bulk silica spheres (800 nm) synthesized by the Stöber method, indicating that it yields silica of lower density. The minimum force needed to irreversibly deform (buckle) the shell increased quadratically with shell thickness.

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