Technological watch

Improving Highly Stretchable Hydrogels

By Robert LeaJan 11 2021The use of hydrogels is widespread in the development of electronics and biomedical devices. A new breakthrough could increase the range of materials that can be used in the creation of hydrogel hybrids, opening up a wide range of properties and uses. 

Image Credit: Alexa_Space/shutterstock

Hydrogels are hydrophilic 3D networks of polymer chains that are capable of retaining large amounts of water and provide impressive ionic conduction.

Despite being used in a wide range of varied applications, such as in flexible electronic devices and in biomedical devices, a significant drawback has hindered the efficiency of hydrogels.

Current technologies can only practically and efficiently fuse hydrogel polymers with laminates that also consist of silicone rubbers, which are used to provide protection and reinforcement.

This limitation has led to a desire to develop an approach to hydrogel-polymer–based hybrid fabrication that is both effective and delivers an increased choice of materials to deliver the same benefits as silicon rubber. Whilst simultaneously providing the same benefits as silicon rubber, these materials could equip hydrogels with a range of other properties.

A team of materials scientists, including researchers from the Department of Mechanical and Energy Engineering, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China, could have hit on such an approach.

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This project has received funding from the Bio Based Industries Joint Undertaking under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 837761.