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Keywords:

  • Crosslinking, sol–gels;
  • Gels;
  • Nanostructures;
  • Resorcinol–formaldehyde;
  • Structure–property relationships

Abstract

A brief overview on the preparation and properties of resorcinol–formaldehyde organic and carbon gels reveals very interesting features about their structural and performance characteristics. The resulting nanostructure was very sensitive to the various synthesis and processing conditions. This leads to a remarkable potential for designing and tailoring these materials to fit specific applications. Based on step-by-step comparisons of the published studies, approximate generalizations on the specific roles the synthesis and processing conditions play on the final properties are provided. Overall, resorcinol–formaldehyde organic gels undergo two main stages during synthesis. The first stage is associated with the preparation of the sol mixture, and the subsequent gelation and curing of the gel. The second stage is associated with the drying of the wet gel. The most important factors that affect the properties of the organic gel during the first stage are the catalyst concentration, the initial gel pH, and the concentration of the solids in the sol. The most important factors that affect the properties of the organic gel during the second stage are the drying procedure (e.g., super- or subcritical drying), and the difference between the surface tensions of the solvent before and after drying. The corresponding resorcinol–formaldehyde carbon gels are produced from the organic gels during a third stage, which is associated with carbonization or activation. Depending on the conditions, carbonization and activation both impact the structural and performance characteristics significantly.