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An aerosol-assisted sol–gel method is used to prepare mesoporous tin silicate catalysts that exhibit a record activity in the synthesis of ethyl lactate from dihydroxyacetone and ethanol. The method is based on the formation of an aerosol from a solution of precursors and surfactant. During the fast drying of the droplets, the surfactant self-assembles and the Sn-silica matrix is formed by polycondensation reactions. After calcination, the resulting material is composed of a true tin-silicondoi:10.6084/m9.figshare.5354296.v1 fatcat:56q2xuvafvalbdymeybfvzticu