• hydrogels;
  • biopolymers;
  • crosslinking;
  • fibers;
  • renewable resources;
  • swelling


A wood pulp cellulose-based hydrogel material was prepared with poly(methyl vinyl ether-co-maleic acid) (PMVEMA), polyethylene glycol (PEG), and softwood ECF kraft pulp via microwave and thermal esterification and compared via hydrogel absorption and retention of water and 0.10M NaCl. The microwave initiated reaction time was optimized to 105 s at 1600 W based on maximum water absorption of 96 g/g of the 49% PMVEMA pulp hydrogels. The influence of reaction variables such as pulp fiber size and the weight ratios of PMVEMA to pulp were investigated. The maximum water absorbency of the milled pulp fibers microwave initiated products was 151 g/g, whereas the maximum water absorbency of the milled pulp fibers thermally initiated hydrogels was 198 g/g. In addition, the microwave initiated hydrogels retained a maximum of 67% of absorbed water after centrifugation at 770 rpm for 10 min, whereas the thermally initiated hydrogels retained a maximum of 49% of water absorbed. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) was used to confirm the esterification of the PMVEMA with the pulp cellulose. Microwave initiated crosslinking successfully produced a pulp hydrogel with a shorter reaction time and comparable or improved water absorption and retention properties when compared with the traditional thermally crosslinked pulp hydrogel system. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Appl Polym Sci, 2011