A fast sol–gel synthesis leading to highly crystalline birnessites under non-hydrothermal conditions
Manganese oxides from the compound family of layered birnessites have attracted interest for their use as cathode materials in Li-ion batteries, as supercapacitors, and as water oxidation catalysts. Furthermore, birnessites are also excellent precursors for low-temperature syntheses of manganese oxide-based materials such as LiMn2O4 (spinel and hollandite). Most syntheses leading to highly crystalline birnessites either require hydrothermal conditions for extended periods of time ranging from days to months or a high post-treatment temperature (400–500 °C). Here, we present a novel sol–gel synthesis route leading to the formation of highly crystalline birnessites within one hour without the need for any post-treatment to enhance crystallinity. Small birnessite crystals form virtually immediately upon mixing of the reactants, albeit initially of lower crystallinity. The size of the fully developed monoclinic birnessite platelets is in the micrometer-range with a thickness of about 20–50 nm. Under the studied conditions, the presence of Li+, Na+, and K+ is necessary for the formation of well-crystallized birnessites, and the crystal size can be tuned by variation of the synthesis time. This is suggested to be linked to an increase of the Na+ content in the birnessite with increasing synthesis time.