Pioneering work by Edler et al. has spawned a new sub-set of mesostructured materials. These are solid, self-supporting films comprising surfactant micelles encased within polymer hydrogel; composite polymer-surfactant films can be grown spontaneously at the air-liquid interface and have defined and controllable mesostructures. Addition of siliconalkoxide to polymer-surfactant mixtures allows for the growth of mesostructured hybrid polymer-surfactant silica films that retain film geometry after calcinations and exhibit superior mechanical properties to typically brittle inorganic films. Growing films at the air-liquid interface provides a rapid and simple means to prepare ordered solid inorganic films, and to date the only method for generating mesostructured films thick enough (up to several hundred microns) to be removed from the interface. Applications of these films could range from catalysis to encapsulation of hydrophobic species and drug delivery. Film properties and mesostructures are sensitive to surfactant structure, polymer properties and polymer-surfactant phase behaviour: herein it will be shown how film mesostructure can be tailored by directing these parameters, and some interesting analogies will be drawn with more familiar mesostructured silica materials.
- Air-liquid interface
- Organic-inorganic hybrid films
- Polyelectrolyte-surfactant interactions
- Polymer-surfactant films