Synthesis and characterization of chiral mesoporous silica

Nature. 2004 May 20;429(6989):281-4. doi: 10.1038/nature02529.


Chirality is widely expressed in organic materials, perhaps most notably in biological molecules such as DNA, and in proteins, owing to the homochirality of their components (d-sugars and l-amino acids). But the occurrence of large-scale chiral pores in inorganic materials is rare. Although some progress has been made in strategies to synthesize helical and chiral zeolite-like materials, the synthesis of enantiomerically pure mesoporous materials is a challenge that remains unsolved. Here we report the surfactant-templated synthesis of ordered chiral mesoporous silica, together with a general approach for the structural analysis of chiral mesoporous crystals by electron microscopy. The material that we have synthesized has a twisted hexagonal rod-like morphology, with diameter 130-180 nm and length 1-6 micro m. Transmission electron microscopy combined with computer simulations confirm the presence of hexagonally ordered chiral channels of 2.2 nm diameter winding around the central axis of the rods. Our findings could lead to new uses for mesoporous silica and other chiral pore materials in, for example, catalysis and separation media, where both shape selectivity and enantioselectivity can be applied to the manufacturing of enantiomerically pure chemicals and pharmaceuticals.