# Chemists, I NEED HELP WITH ALCOGELS!

1. Dec 17, 2004

### alex caps

I was trying to make some alcogels and either the solution remained un-changed or it solidified quickly and crumpled. I was not able to make the gel. Any ideas?

2. Dec 18, 2004

### chem_tr

Hello, http://eande.lbl.gov/ECS/aerogels/saprep.htm [Broken] mentions something about alcogels.

Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
3. Dec 18, 2004

### alex caps

Well I am taking sodium silicate and mixing with distiled water (I have tried just about every combination of the two.) I then stur thoroughly until it is clear and add a drop of acid as a catalyst. The top of the solution immediately harders a little, but then it either disappears or just doesn't go any further.. Any ideas.

4. Dec 18, 2004

### chem_tr

This involves the following reaction:

$$Na_2SiO_3 + H_2O \longrightarrow H_2SiO_3 \downarrow+ 2NaOH$$

As you see, the reaction refuses to go to the right side; dissolved sodium silicate needs a very long time to be converted to silicate acid and you must do something to consume the sodium hydroxide produced. I had added concentrated hydrochloric acid dropwise in the presence of a suitable acid indicator (phenolphthalein is the best one here) to show the gelation to the students in my previous T.A. years (sigh). The reaction had very rapidly processed the gel, and I had turned the test tube upside-down to show the formation.

5. Dec 18, 2004

### alex caps

It seems to be the same thing I did. I took sodium silicate and mixed it with water, then added a drop of acid as a catalyst..

I tried diluting and also using the acid pure, I tried with more water than silicate and vice versa. I don't know what went wrong, I am going to try again sometime soon..

6. Dec 19, 2004

### chem_tr

More acid is needed for gelation. Don't add it as a drop; add until it 'solidifies'.

7. Dec 19, 2004

### alex caps

Well when I add too much acid it solidifies too quickly and crumbles, I think the bonds are too weak to hold it together when I add too much acid..

8. Dec 20, 2004

### chem_tr

Maybe stirring is bad for these... I don't remember vigorous stirring conditions in this kind of gelation. So this may be the reason of your observed crumbling. Add the concentrated acid dropwise until you see the gelation. This must work.

9. Dec 20, 2004

### alex caps

Well I stir just the water and silicon dioxide so they become one substance, when I add the acid I don't stir because it aggitates the molecules and makes it impossible for bonds to form..