SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • gels;
  • mechanical properties;
  • swelling

ABSTRACT

Hydrogels are polymer networks swollen in water. Because of their soft and wet nature, and their ability to show large volume changes, hydrogels can be useful in many biomedical and actuator applications. In these applications, it is crucial to tune the mechanical and physical properties of a hydrogel in a controllable manner. Here, interpenetrating polymer networks (IPNs) made of a covalently crosslinked network and an ionically crosslinked network were produced to investigate the effective parameters that control the physical and mechanical properties of an IPN hydrogel. Covalently crosslinked polyacrylamide (PAAm) or poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) networks were produced in the presence of alginate (Alg) that was then ionically crosslinked to produce the IPN hydrogels. The effect of ionic crosslinking, degree of covalent crosslinking, AAm : Alg and AA : Alg ratio on the swelling ratio, tensile properties, indentation modulus, and fracture energy of IPN hydrogels was studied. A hollow cylindrical hydrogel with gradient mechanical properties along its length was developed based on the obtained results. The middle section of this hydrogel was designed as a pH triggered artificial muscle, while each end was formulated to be harder, tougher, and insensitive to pH so as to function as a tendon-like material securing the gel muscle to its mechanical supports. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 130: 2504–2513, 2013