Hydrothermal conversion of diatom frustules into barium titanate based replicas
Ernst, Eric Michael
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Numerous organisms produce ornately detailed inorganic structures (often known as shells) with features on length scales from the nanoscale to the microscale. One organism, commonly referred to as a diatom, originates from algae and is found throughout the oceans on Earth. These diatoms possess skeletal structures, frustules, made from silicon dioxide. This chemical makeup limits the number of possible applications for which these structures can be used. Using a series of gas displacement reactions, these frustules can be converted to other useful materials, such as magnesium oxide and titanium dioxide, while maintaining the features of the frustule template. In the current research, silicon dioxide frustules were converted to titanium dioxide replicas using method previously devised by our group. The titanium dioxide replicas were subjected to a hydrothermal reaction by exposing the replicas to an aqueous basic solution containing barium hydroxide to form barium titanate and barium strontium titanate replicas. The effects of reaction temperature, time, and solution composition on extent of conversion were examined. The conventional method of converting titanium dioxide to barium titanate, using a convection heating oven, was compared with a microwave assisted heating method to study the advantages of using microwave heating over convection heating.