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Hierarchically structured metal oxide/silica nanofibers by colloid electrospinning
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We present herein a new concept for the preparation of nanofibrous metal oxides based on the simultaneous electrospinning of metal oxide precursors and silica nanoparticles. Precursor fibers are prepared by electrospinning silica nanoparticles (20 nm in diameter) dispersed in an aqueous solution of poly(acrylic acid) and metal salts. Upon calcination in air, the poly(acrylic acid) matrix is removed, the silica nanoparticles are cemented, and nanocrystalline metal oxide particles of 4-14 nm are nucleated at the surface of the silica nanoparticles. The obtained continuous silica fibers act as a structural framework for metal oxide nanoparticles and show improved mechanical integrity compared to the neat metal oxide fibers. The hierarchically nanostructured materials are promising for catalysis applications, as demonstrated by the successful degradation of a model dye in the presence of the fibers.