An innovative photopolymerizable microgel modified UV-cured acrylic-silica hybrid formulation
was developed and characterized for possible use as protective coating for different substrates. A deep investigation, aiming at providing a strong scientific basis for the production of organic-inorganic (O-I) hybrids exhibiting phase co-continuity, was firstly carried out. The O-I hybrid first proposed in this study was obtained from organic precursors with a high siloxane content, which are mixed with tetraethoxysilane (TEOS) in such a way to produce co-continuous silica nanodomains dispersed within the crosslinked organic phase, as a result of the sol-gel process. The first part of the research deals with the selection and optimization of suitable systems through appropriate chemical modifications, in order to ensure that curing reactions can be carried out at room temperature and in the presence of UV radiation. Firstly, the silica domains are formed, followed by crosslinking reactions of the acrylic groups in the oligomer via a free radical polymerization. The crosslinking reaction was controlled with the use of a suitable photoinitiator. Most of the experimental work was devoted to understanding the morphology of the hybrid system, both in uncured and cured states, and to assess its final thermal and optical properties, using different experiential techniques.