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ACS Appl Mater Interfaces. 2013 Nov 27;5(22):11489-93. doi: 10.1021/am402028w. Epub 2013 Jul 23.

Fabrication of ceramic microspheres by diffusion-induced sol-gel reaction in double emulsions.

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State Key Laboratory of Tribology and ‡Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology, Tsinghua University , Beijing, 100084, China.


We demonstrate an approach to prepare zirconium dioxide (ZrO2) microspheres by carrying out a diffusion-induced sol-gel reaction inside double emulsion droplets. A glass capillary microfluidic device is introduced to generate monodisperse water-in-oil-in-water (W/O/W) double emulsions with a zirconium precursor as the inner phase. By adding ammonia to the continuous aqueous phase, the zirconium precursor solution is triggered to gel inside the emulsions. The double emulsion structure enhances the uniformity in the rate of the sol-gel reaction, resulting in sol-gel microspheres with improved size uniformity and sphericity. ZrO2 ceramic microspheres are formed following subsequent drying and sintering steps. Our approach, which combines double-emulsion-templating and sol-gel synthesis, has great potential for fabricating versatile ceramic microspheres for applications under high temperature and pressure.

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