Highly Resilient Synthetic Hydrogels with Tunable Mechanical Properties
This technology, developed by a team of polymer scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, provides a versatile and simple method for producing highly resilient synthetic hydrogels with excellent mechanical properties comparable to the most efficient, naturally occurring elastic protein called resilin. The method involves the use of photo-initiated crosslinking reaction of hydrophilic and hydrophobic polymers having reactive end-groups in the presence of a tetra-functional thiol cross-linker. The resultant resilient hydrogels possess network elements of resilin, including a uniform network structure, low crosslink density, and an absence of secondary structures within the crosslinked primary chains. These hydrogels are capable of undergoing significant reversible deformation without energy loss (97% resilience) at varying water content and show negligible hysteresis across a broad range of strains up to 300%. The swelling capacity, stiffness and fracture toughness of the hydrogels can be easily tuned by controlling the volume fractions of the hydrophilic and hydrophobic polymers to tailor the hydrogels to the specific needs of end-use applications. Current studies have focused on material elements common in extended wear contact lenses.
- Manufacture of contact lenses and other protective wear
- Biomedical applications including wound dressing and drug delivery
- Novel and simple method of hydrogel synthesis with versatile and scalable synthetic chemistry platform
- Homogeneous crosslinked polymer network with resilin-like, highly elastic properties
- Robust mechanical properties
- Easily tunable water content and mechanical properties such as stiffness and fracture toughness