The interplay between the chemical structure of the precursors, internal organization in the end materials and dye retention was investigated for composites (ormosils) doped with rhodamine B. Besides formulations with triethoxysilanes (RTES) only, we synthesized as well organic–inorganic hybrids with addition of titanium isopropoxide (TIP) and maleic anhydride (MA). The organic (R) functionality of RTES was changed from methyl (MeTES), to phenyl (PTES) and octyl (OTES). Atomic force microscopy and electron microscopy, coupled with thermogravimetric analysis prove that hydrophobicity increase stimulates the transition of film structure: from well-defined, compact particles (for MeTES), to a mixture of porous particles and non-granular material (for MeTES/PTES), with extreme results observed for octyl-based composites. For this latter, the apparent homogeneity comes from cluster-like organization, where the primary entities are pseudo—granules produced by hydrophobic interactions of oligomeric siloxanes. Controlling the composition and gelation procedure resulted in doped composites with good optical transparency and rhodamine B fluorescence emission bands at around 580 nm. Dye transport inside the inorganic structure is not facilitated when: (a) the particles have a compact (nonporous) inner structure and (b) the recipe does not contain the TIP/MA combination. For silica-based films, the dye is located in the macropores (between the granules) of the material and could be easy removed by washing with acetone. On the contrary, using TIP/MA changes not only the internal composition of the granular-like material (by creating a microporous titania-rich outer-shell of the particles) but also the affinity of the Rh-B to permeate and reside inside these new structures.
- Ormosils - dye retention - atomic force microscopy (AFM) - thermogravimetric analysis (TGA)