Vegetable oil hybrid films cross-linked at the air–water interface: formation kinetics and physical characterization
Vegetable oil based hybrid films were developed thanks to a novel solvent- and heating-free method at the air–water interface using silylated castor oil cross-linked via a sol–gel reaction. To understand the mechanism of the hybrid film formation, the reaction kinetics was studied in detail by using complementary techniques: rheology, thermogravimetric analysis, and infrared spectroscopy. The mechanical properties of the final films were investigated using nano-indentation, whereas their structure was studied using a combination of wide-angle X-ray scattering, electron diffraction, and atomic force microscopy. We found that solid and transparent films form in 24 hours and, by changing the silica precursor to castor oil ratio, their mechanical properties are tunable in the MPa-range by about a factor of twenty. In addition to that, a possible optimization of the cross-linking reaction with different catalysts was explored, and finally cytotoxicity tests were performed on fibroblasts proving the absence of film toxicity. The results of this work pave the way to a straightforward synthesis of castor-oil films with tunable mechanical properties: hybrid films cross-linked at the air–water interface combine an easy and cheap spreading protocol with the features of their thermal history optimized for possible future micro/nano drug loading, thus representing excellent candidates for the replacement of non-environmentally friendly petroleum-based materials.