Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is one of the most popular analytical techniques used to characterize sol-gel silica materials in their different stages. The method represents, in particular, a simple and versatile tool to investigate the microstructural evolution in gels and films, as a function of temperature and synthesis parameters. Several studies have shown that sol-gel IR absorption spectra exhibit, with respect to silica melt glass spectra, some specific features closely related to the peculiarities of sol-gel processing. Furthermore, because of the differences between silica bulk gels and films the spectra- microstructure correlation must be especially evaluated for thin films. IR spectroscopy has been used to evaluate residual porosity, Si-O-Si bonding rearrangements during drying and firing stages and to model the microstructure evolution during film processing. Some questions are still, however, arising around the interpretations of the IR spectra, in particular about the presence of cyclic species in the microstructure and disorder-induced vibrational modes. An attempt is made here to present an overview of the different relationships existing between IR spectra and microstructure of sol-gel silica films as they actually appear from current literature. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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