Nanostructured chromium(III)-oxide-based materials using sol-gel processing and a synthetic route for producing such materials are disclosed herein. Monolithic aerogels and xerogels having surface areas between 150 m.sup.2/g and 520 m.sup.2/g have been produced. The synthetic method employs the use of stable and inexpensive hydrated-chromium(III) inorganic salts and common solvents such as water, ethanol, methanol, 1-propanol, t-butanol, 2-ethoxy ethanol, and ethylene glycol, DMSO, and dimethyl formamide. The synthesis involves the dissolution of the metal salt in a solvent followed by an addition of a proton scavenger, such as an epoxide, which induces gel formation in a timely manner. Both critical point (supercritical extraction) and atmospheric (low temperature evaporation) drying may be employed to produce monolithic aerogels and xerogels, respectively.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.