The formation of purely metallic meso-porous metal thin films by partial interface coalescence of self-assembled metal nano-particles across aqueous solutions of Pluronics triblock lyotropic liquid crystals is demonstrated for the first time. Small angle X-ray scattering was used to study the influence of the thin film composition and processing conditions on the ordered structures. The structural characteristics of the meso-structures formed demonstrated to primarily rely on the lyotropic liquid crystal properties while the nature of the metal nano-particles used as well as the their diameters were found to affect the ordered structure formation. The impact of the annealing temperature on the nano-particle coalescence and efficiency at removing the templating lyotropic liquid crystals was also analysed. It is demonstrated that the lyotropic liquid crystal is rendered slightly less thermally stable, upon mixing with metal nano-particles and that low annealing temperatures are sufficient to form purely metallic frameworks with average pore size distributions smaller than 500 nm and porosity around 45% with potential application in sensing, catalysis, nanoscale heat exchange, and molecular separation.
Keywords: SAXS ordered phase shifts; interface nano-particle coalescence; lyotropic liquid crystals templating; meso-porous metal framework; metal nano-particle coalescence.