Hierarchically porous transparent silica coatings combine large specific surface area with enhanced pore accessibility for optical biosensing. This paper describes a versatile approach to fabricate optically transparent silica coatings with multiscale porosity. Thin films (around 1 mu m in thickness) of an aqueous suspension of primary silica aggregates form a mesoporous, interconnected matrix, and sacrificial polymer particles template well-defined, discrete macropores with high structural integrity. The total surface area achieved is around 200 m(2) g(-1) with mesopore sizes of 20-40 nm and macropores of 250 nm, with a total porosity of 84%. The macro/meso dual range of porosity allows enhanced biocatalyst loadings of l-lactate dehydrogenase for detection of lactate. The functionalized films showed a linear response within the range of interest of 1-20 x 10(-3) m of lactate. These biosensing coatings therefore strongly enhance sensitivity, speed and reliability of optically based lactate detection as compared to classical thin films with monomodal mesopore structure. Particle-based simulations and experiments reveal that both the location and connectivity of the macropores control the biosensing performance. The coatings and procedure presented here are versatile, scalable, inexpensive, and are therefore compatible with a wide range of deposition techniques suitable for industrial and health care applications.
Advanced Functional Materials, vol. 27 (16), p. 11, Apr 2017.