Organically modified silicates (ormosils) of high hardness were prepared by the reactions of tetraethoxysilane (TEOS) and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) aided by ultrasonic irradiation. The mechanisms leading to the hard ormosil formation were investigated by liquid state 29Si NMR spectroscopy. PDMS chains were found to be broken into shorter chains and/or 4-membered siloxane rings during the reaction and finally, all PDMS chains were chemically incorporated as short chains into silica networks. Vickers hardnesses of the hard ormosils were measured and compared with those of the hardest transparent plastics. Whereas the hardest transparent plastics have Vickers hardness values of less than 25 kg/mm2, the hard ormosils have Vickers hardnesses up to higher than 150 kg/mm2. A theoretical model was developed for the calculation of Vickers hardnesses of the hard ormosils and agreed well with experimental results. Predictions based on this theory indicate that even harder ormosils can be made when Al2O3, ZrO2 and TiO2 are substituted for SiO2. Results based on these new ormosils are also presented.
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