A tailored, cage-like silica structure developed by Penn State researchers is easier and less expensive to make than previous materials. "Previous attempts at synthesizing materials like PSU-1 involved specially designed templates, making the process expensive," said Sridhar Komarneni, Ph.D., professor of clay mineralogy. "The processes also require stringent conditions for the synthesis to work." The research team used a hybrid mechanism to synthesize the same product. "We prepared two gels and two templates and mixed them together to see what kind of material might come up with this hybrid template," said Komarneni. The two sets of templates and gels mixed together -- one forms large pores and one forms small pores -- created the cage-like structure. Altering the sizes of the templates alters the sizes of the pores, which have sizes of 4.6 and 5.4 nanometers, while the powders are 30-40 micrometers in diameter.