Sol-gel molecularly imprinted materials (MIMs) are traditionally obtained by grinding and sieving of a monolith formed by bulk polymerization. However, this process has several drawbacks that can be overcome if these materials are synthesized directly in the spherical format. This work aimed at the development of two efficient methods to prepare spherical glycylglycine-templated silica ("whole-imprinted" and surface-imprinted) through a combination of sol-gel and emulsion techniques. The synthesis of the microspheres was optimized regarding emulsion and sol-gel parameters. Imprinting efficiency of the prepared materials was studied by solid phase extraction and flow microcalorimetry. The particles prepared with glycylglycine and functional monomer, in basic medium (using cyclohexane as non-polar continuous medium) presented the highest imprinting factor - 2.5 - and the respective surface-imprinted material presented an imprinting factor of 1.5. The results of flow microcalorimetry confirmed the action of different mechanisms of glycylglycine adsorption: entropically-controlled interactions were present for the "whole-imprinted" material, indicating adsorption inside small imprinted pores; enthalpically-controlled interactions were observed for the surface-imprinted material, a behaviour more compatible with a template/surface-only interaction. Globally, the two approaches allowed for a successful imprinting effect which was more extensive for the "whole-imprinted" material, whereas the surface-imprinting feature confers to the surface-imprinted xerogel advantages regarding mass transfer kinetics. Overall, the spherical particles obtained by both approaches presented characteristics, such as sphericity, mesoporosity, easy/fast accessibility to imprinted sites, important indicators that these materials maybe candidates for stationary phases for efficient, selective chromatographic separation.
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