Nanostructured materials with high metal content are interesting for a number of applications, including catalysis as well as energy conversion and storage. Here we elaborate an approach that combines the advantages of simple silica sol-gel chemistry with the ability to tailor metal composition and structure by introducing a ligand that connects a silane with an amino acid or hydroxy acid. Reacting this ligand with a metal acetate generates a precursor for a range of metal-silica nanocomposites. Comparing this chemistry with conventional organic ligand-metal complexes that can be physically mixed into sol-gel derived silicates elucidates advantages, e.g. of going to high metal loadings. Resulting nanomaterials are characterized by a combination of small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) to reveal structural characteristics on multiple lengths scales, i.e. from the microscopic (molecular) level (NMR) all the way to the mesoscale (SAXS) and macroscale (TEM).
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