Parametric study of factors affecting melamine-resorcinol-formaldehyde xerogels properties

Principe, Ivan A. and Fletcher, Ashleigh J. (2018) Parametric study of factors affecting melamine-resorcinol-formaldehyde xerogels properties. Materials Today Chemistry, 7. pp. 5-14. ISSN 2468-5194 (

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Resorcinol-formaldehyde (RF) xerogels are organic materials have been widely studied due to their industrially relevant characteristics, through which, RF gels have significant potential to be tailored to specific applications. Xerogel properties have been tailored, within this study, by altering the synthesis procedure with a focus on monomer concentrations, catalyst to monomer ratio, and the introduction of a nitrogen-rich precursor, thereby incorporating nitrogen into the structure to additionally affect the chemical properties of the final gel. Melamine (M) is used as the source of nitrogen, partially replacing the resorcinol (R) typically used, and resulting in a melamine-resorcinol-formaldehyde (MRF) gel; synthesis was facilitated by a sodium carbonate catalyst (C), as often used in RF gel production. R/C and R/F molar ratios, and M concentration ([M]), were chosen as parameters to study in-depth, as they have previously been shown to markedly influence sol-gel formation. The MRF gels produced were subsequently characterized to determine porous structure and chemical functionality. The results indicate that, texturally, increasing [M] produces a similar effect as increasing R/C values: increasing pore size, while decreasing surface area. Pore volume tends to increase when R/C or M increase individually but pore volume and surface area decrease drastically when both variables increase concurrently. Microporosity also tends to increase as R/C decreases, and as the concentration of M is decreased. Altering the gel matrix, by replacing M for R, results in a weakening of the gel structure, as the bridges formed during curing are reduced in quantity, which indicates a maximum level of substitution that can occur within these materials. Combined, these results suggest that nitrogen can be successfully incorporated into organic gel structures but that the interplay between process variables is crucial in determining final gel characteristics for specific applications.