In our Special Topics analysis of mesoporous materials
research over the past decade, Dr. Bao-Lian Su ranks at #8 by
number of papers, with 61 papers cited a total of 660 times.
Reuters, Dr. Su's work includes 169 papers, the
majority of which are in the field of Chemistry, cited a total
of 1,802 times between January 1, 1998 and April 30, 2008.
Dr. Su is a Full Professor in Inorganic and Materials Chemistry at the
University of Namur, Belgium, where he is also the Director of the
Laboratory of Inorganic Materials Chemistry. He is on the Editorial Board
of Nanopages: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nano Science and
Technology. In 2007, he was named the A. Wetrems Prize Laureate by the
Royal Academy of Sciences.
In the interview below,
ScienceWatch.com talks with Dr. Su about his
Would you tell us a bit about your
educational background and research experiences?
I received my Bachelor's degree from Liaonining University, China, in 1983,
my Master's degree from Chendu Institute of Organic Chemistry, Chinese
Academy of Sciences, in 1986, and in 1992 I earned my doctorate from the
Université de Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France.
From 1986-1989, I was a Research Engineer at the Research Institute of
Petroleum Processing in Beijing, China. I did a post-doc from 1993-1995 at
the Laboratory of Catalysis of the University of Namur, under the
supervision of Prof. E.G. Derouane. From January to September of 1995, I
was a Research Scientist-Project leader at Catalytica in Mountain View,
I went back to the University of Namur in September of 1995, where I was an
Associate Professor and named Director of the newly created Laboratory of
Inorganic Materials Chemistry (CMI). In September of 2002, I was appointed
Professor of Chemistry, and in September of 2004, Full Professor (promoted
exceptionally). I was also appointed the Director of the Research Centre
for Nanomaterials Chemistry (CNANO).
What would you say is the main focus of your
Design, modeling, property study, fundamentals, and the molecular
engineering of organized, hierarchically porous and bio-inspired materials
and nanostructures for nanotechnology, biotechnology, information
technology, and biomedical applications.
"Hierarchical materials containing
both interconnected macroporous and
mesoporous structures have enhanced
properties compared with single-sized pore
materials due to increased mass transport
through the material and maintenance of a
specific surface area on the level of fine
1) Synthesis, structure determination and theoretical simulation of new
micro-, meso- and macro-porous systems and molecular sieves.
2) Theoretical and experimental study on molecular recognition effect in
micro-, meso- and macro-porous systems and molecular sieves.
3) Conception and understanding at molecular and atomic level of
hierarchically multimodal inorganic porous structures and nanostructures
and application as catalysts, catalyst supports, adsorbents and drying
agents in the petroleum processing, petrochemicals, chemicals, in
hydrocarbons and gas separation processes and environmental protection. For
Development of new concepts "one-pot reactor" and "hierarchical
chemistry and catalysis,"
Development of highly efficient self-cleaning surfaces
(photocatalytic action, Lotus superhydrophobic effect,
photosynthetic action, etc.)
Development of highly efficient energy conversion system
(conversion of sun energy to chemical energy),
Biomimicking photosynthesis processes in porous media (see inside
cover page: J. Mater. Chem. 2008, 18),
Development of the enzymatic catalysis in porous media,
4) New orientations are to use these novel porous and nanoparticle
materials as a matrix for the encapsulation of organometallics, oxide and
metallic nanoparticles and biological molecules and organisms, for the
design of new catalysts, new drugs, energy storage agents and for the
development of optical, electronic, random laser, and thermosensetive
materials and nanobiosensors.
5) Development of highly advanced optical, photonic, electronic, and
Your most-cited paper in our analysis is the 2001
Chemistry of Materials paper, "Well-ordered spherical
mesoporous materials CMI-1 synthesized via an assembly of
decaoxyethylene cetyl ether and TMOS." Would you walk our readers
through this paper—its goals, findings, and
This paper provided a comprehensive study on the synthesis mechanism of
highly ordered mesoporous materials. This paper was one of first papers to
use a special type of neutral surfactant molecule (polyoxyethylene alkyl
ether) as a templating agent to tailor the organization of mesoporous
Its goals: better understanding of the synthesis mechanism, showing how
important the surfactant concentration in aqueous solution on the final
organization of mesoporous materials is, and providing the first example of
synthesizing mesoporous materials under very mild conditions by using this
neutral surfactant and tetramethyl oxysilane (TMOS) as silica source.
Findings: the effect of the surfactant concentration on the final
organization of mesoporous materials was evidenced; highly ordered
mesoporous materials can be synthesized under very mild conditions; the
morphologies of the final materials can be controlled, two synthesis
mechanisms have been proposed for the synthesis of highly ordered CMI-1 and
wormhole-like disordered mesoporous materials (DWM). It is evidenced that
when the concentration of surfactant is less than 25%, the well-ordered
CMI-1 is obtained while higher than 30%, and the DWM structure is obtained.
Significance: Synthesis of highly ordered mesoporous materials under very
mild conditions, a better understanding on the synthesis mechanism, and the
first example to control the morphogenesis of mesoporous materials.
Several of your papers involve molecular sieves.
Would you explain exactly what these are and how they are
Mesoporous materials can be considered as mesoporous molecular sieves
although it is not exact since molecular sieves concern initially materials
with a microporosity (pore size less than 2 nm) and a crystalline
structure, while mesoporous framework is often amorphous.
Another of your key papers is the 2000 Stud.
Surf. Sci. Catal. paper, "New way to synthesize MCM-41 and MCM-48
materials with tailored pore sizes." Would you talk a little bit about
"'Do as nature, work as nature, and
produce as nature' is the only way to solve
the problems of our humanity: energy, food,
This is one of the first papers to use swelling agents (alcanes and
trimethlbenzene) to control the pore size of mesoporous materials. The
great importance of this paper is a new finding that we can also control
the phase transition (from cubic to hexagonal, etc.). Unfortunately, we
reported this in a meeting and the paper was generated by this meeting and
published in a proceedings. The audience of this proceedings was not as
broad as expected. Otherwise, this paper might have attracted much more
Is there any part of your work you feel is
particularly exciting or rewarding?
Yes; firstly, since 2003, I initiated a new research subject in the field
of mesoporous materials by introduction of the new concept: hierarchically
meso-macroporous materials. This means to generate materials with different
porosities in different length scales integrated in one solid body.
Hierarchical materials containing both interconnected macroporous and
mesoporous structures have enhanced properties compared with single-sized
pore materials due to increased mass transport through the material and
maintenance of a specific surface area on the level of fine pore systems.
Normally, to incorporate different porosities in one solid body, different
synthesis strategies with different preparation steps and hard and soft
templates have been developed. However, my group observed a new
self-formation phenomenon of porous hierarchy. Without any external
templating agents, by using the power of metal alkoxide chemistry, we can
prepare materials with well-organized pores in different length scales. The
method is quite simple and can be extended to other situations.
This phenomenon has been considered very important discovery to the porous
Here is an extract from one of my papers in Chem. Mater. 2007, 19,
"It has recently been reported that hierarchically structured
meso-macroporous metal oxides (silicoaluminates,
Al2O3, ZrO2, TiO2,
Y2O3, Nb2O5, and mixed oxides)
possessing well ordered funnel-like macrochannels with mesoporous walls can
be targeted via a "one-pot" self-formation process. Their synthesis is
quite simple and is performed on the basis of the chemistry of metal
alkoxides. A comprehensive study following the formation of the funnel-like
macrochannels has recently been completed. Optical microscopy was used in
situ to follow the reaction and has revealed that these hierarchically
structured meso-macroporous metal oxides are produced by a self-formation
mechanism. The key point of this novel synthesis process is the very high
rate at which the metal alkoxides hydrolyzed undergo condensation reactions
in aqueous solution. Alcohol molecules can be generated suddenly as soon as
the metal alkoxide precursor is in contact with the water molecules. The
molecules of alcohol will increase in quantity as the reaction progresses
because one metal alkoxide molecule can produce at least two more alcohol
molecules. These alcohol molecules can be considered as the 'porogene' in
the generation of the funnel-like macrochannels with hierarchically
mesostructured porous walls. This new process could be of great interest
and is a significant advance toward the understanding of the formation
mechanism of these hierarchically structured porous materials. This process
could be adopted for the large scale funnel-like, straight macrochannels
which interconnect with the mesoporous shell and pore walls. The process
could be used to targeted new functional materials with very sophisticated
architectures. Instead of alcohol molecules as the self-generated
"porogene," it is possible to imagine other precursors which can generate
and release "porogene molecules" in liquid and even in gas form. The
formation mechanism of these meso-macroporous structures has been discussed
in depth in recent papers. These metal oxides with a hierarchical
meso-macroporous network have additional benefits as a result of the
enhanced access to the mesopores by the regular macrochannel array."
Secondly, the immobilization of plant and animal cells and bacteria into
biocompatible porous matrices is my recent exciting research field.
"Do as nature, work as nature, and produce as nature" is the only way to
solve the problems of our humanity: energy, food, and environment.
My recent papers on this include:
1) J. Mater. Chem. (inside cover page): 2008, 18, 1333–1341:
"Targeting photobioreactors: Immobilisation of cyanobacteria within porous
silica gel using biocompatible methods"
2) J. Mater. Chem 2008, DOI: 10.1039/b802705f: "Photosynthesis
within porous silica gel: viability and activity of encapsulated
3) Pure Appl. Chem. (Invited review paper): "Energy from
Photobioreactors: Bioencapsulation of Photosynthetically Active Molecules,
Organelles and Whole Cells within Biologically Inert Matrices"
What would you like the "take-away lesson" about
your research to be?
To be creative, to be curious, to be perseverant, and work
Dr. Eng. Bao-Lian Su
Inorganic and Materials Chemistry
Laboratory of Inorganic Materials Chemistry
The University of Namur (FUNDP)
Su's most-cited paper with 82
cites to date: