Salt-driven assembly of magnetic silica microbeads with tunable porosity.
HYPOTHESIS: Porous magnetic silica beads are promising materials for biological and environmental applications due to their enhanced adsorption and ease of recovery. This work aims to develop a new, inexpensive and environmentally friendly approach based on agglomeration of nanoparticles in aqueous droplets. The use of an emulsion as a geometrical constraint is expected to result in the formation of spherical beads with tunable composition depending on the aqueous phase content. EXPERIMENTS: Magnetic silica beads are produced at room temperature by colloidal destabilization induced by addition of CaCl2 to a water-in-oil emulsion containing SiO2 and Fe3O4 nanoparticles. The impact of the salt concentration, emulsification method, concentration of hydrophobic surfactant as well as silica content is presented in this paper. FINDINGS: This method enables the production of spherical beads with diameters between 1 and 9 µm. The incorporation of magnetic nanoparticles inside the bead's structure is confirmed using Energy Dispersive X-ray spectrometry (EDX) and Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (STEM) and results in the production of magnetic responsive beads with a preparation yield up to 84%. By incorporating the surfactant Span 80 in the oil phase it is possible to tune the roughness and porosity of the beads.