Introducing nanoscaled surface morphology and percolation barrier network into mesoporous silica coatings
Mesoporous silica thin films were patterned at the sub-micron scale utilizing the ion hammering effect in order to combine the advantages of mesoporous character and surface morphology, while preserving the interconnected pore system or creating laterally separated porous volumes surrounded by nonpermeable compact zones. Porous silica coatings were prepared by a sol–gel method with an ordered and disordered pore system using micellar templates. A hexagonally ordered Langmuir–Blodgett type monolayer of silica spheres was applied as a mask against Xe+ ion irradiation. The ion energy was chosen according to Monte-Carlo simulations to achieve structures with high lateral contrast between irradiated and unirradiated, i.e., masked areas. The disordered pore system proved to be more resistant against ion bombardment. Although the created surface morphologies were similar, the main character of the pore system could be tailored to be interconnected or separated by controlling the ion fluence. Confocal fluorescence images and ellipsometric porosimetry measurements confirmed that the contribution of transition zone between the intact masked and damaged regions to the porosity is negligible. Furthermore, the majority of the porous volume can be preserved as an interconnected pore system by the application of low ion fluence. By increasing the fluence value, however, separated porous volumes can be created at the expense of the total pore volume.