Hybrid Nanocomposite Materials—between inorganic glasses and organic polymers


  • Prof. Bruce M. Novak

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley Berkeley, CA 94720 (USA)
    • Department of Chemistry University of California at Berkeley Berkeley, CA 94720 (USA)
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    • After serving three years as a paratrooper in the US Army, Bruce Novak attended California State University, Northridge, where he was received his B.S. (1983) and M. S. (1985) degrees in chemistry. He then moved to the California Institute of Technology, where he was awarded his Ph.D. for work under the supervision of Professor Robert Grubbs in 1989. He is currently an assistant professor in the Chemistry Department of the University of California at Berkeley. His research interests include the synthesis of organic–inorganic interpenetrating networks that display mixing near the molecular level, and the development of transition metal complexes that initiate living polymerizations.

  • The author gratefully acknowledges financial support for this work from the Office of Naval Research, the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, the Alfred E. Sloan Foundation, DuPont, Dow Corning, and the Corning Corporation. Appreciation is also extended to co-workers Mark W. Ellsworth and Celine Verrier for their valuable insights and experimental expertise.


The sol–gel process, with its associated mild conditions, offers a new approach to the synthesis of composite materials with domain sizes approaching the molecular level. Transparent organic–inorganic composites can be prepared by dissolving preformed polymers into sot–gel precursor solutions, and then allowing the tetraalkyl orthosilicates to hydrolyze and condense to form glassy SiO2 phases of different morphological structures. Alternatively, both the organic and inorganic phases can be simultaneously formed through the synchronous polymerization of the organic monomer and the sol–gel precursors. Depending upon such factors as the structures of the organic and inorganic components, the phase morphology, the degree of interpenetration, and the presence of covalent bonds between the phases, the properties of these composites can vary greatly and range from elastomeric rubbers to high–modulus materials.