• small-angle X-ray scattering;
  • disordered mesoporous materials;
  • nanostructure characterization;
  • plurigaussian modeling

Small-angle scattering of X-rays (SAXS) or neutrons is one of the few experimental methods currently available for the in situ analysis of phenomena in mesoporous materials at the mesoscopic scale. In the case of disordered mesoporous materials, however, the main difficulty of the method lies in the data analysis. A stochastic model is presented, which enables one to reconstruct the three-dimensional nanostructure of liquids confined in disordered mesopores starting from small-angle scattering data. This so-called plurigaussian model is a multi-phase generalization of clipped Gaussian random field models. Its potential is illustrated through the synchrotron SAXS analysis of a gel permeated with a critical nitrobenzene/hexane solution that is progressively cooled below its consolute temperature. The reconstruction brings to light a wetting transition whereby the nanostructure of the pore-filling liquids passes from wetting layers that uniformly cover the solid phase of the gel to plugs that locally occlude the pores. Using the plurigaussian model, the dewetting phenomenon is analyzed quantitatively at the nanometre scale in terms of changing specific interface areas, contact angle and specific length of the triple line.