We have asked some questions about sol-gel and research to Jadra
How difficult (or easy) was for you to approach the Sol-Gel Chemistry?
At least initially, it not seems to be a complicated method, is a synthesis in liquid medium using a solvent, catalyst, water and the specific precursors that will form the desired network. Then, you can complicate the process what you want, trying to obtain a heterometallic network, for example, developing inorganic systems of the type SiO2-P2O5-ZrO2. In this case, a strategy must be design to adjust the hydrolysis rates of the precursors used. In hybrid systems in which inorganic precursors such as alkoxides or alkylalcoxides and monomers were incorporated into the sol-gel solution, the kinetics of the organic and inorganic polymerization reactions must be controlled. Actually, I find sol-gel synthesis quite funny because you have to play with many parameters (pH, viscosity, H2O/ alkoxides ratio, temperature, concentration, addition sequence, type and amount of initiator …), but only change one parameter at each attempt until you reach to the optimal sol. Once the ideal solution was obtained, the sol-gel method allows a wide range of processing methods in order to obtain the final material, which is also a challenge.
When did you realize you wanted to work in the field of research?
In fact, it was something that was already designed when I was awarded with the pre-doctoral fellowship. I had the option to choose different themes and finally I decided that I like to applied sol-gel chemistry to the energy field
What is the most exciting part of your job and what would you like to change?
Now, I develop my work in a different way at first. I do not have almost time to go to the lab. I like to propose sol-gel compositions to my students and teach them to design the parameters in order to obtain optimal sols. I would like to devote more time to research and to do less administrative management activities.
What do you like more in the sol-gel community?
It is a very active community, an open discussion forum and we are so lucky to have an annual conference on the subject.
Do you have any suggestions or advices for students who are approaching now for the first time the sol-gel chemistry?
Do not give up, although sometimes designing a sol-gel solution and processing the material in the desired form is difficult, with effort and patience everything is possible.