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Properties of electrically responsive hydrogels as a potential dynamic tool for biomedical applications



Hydrogels with electric responsive properties are gaining research focus due to increasing demand for miniaturized devices that can be precisely controlled using an external stimulus. Such systems are well suited due to their ability to expand and contract when in contact with different types of fluid. This study reports on the synthesis of a “smart” electroresponsive network, using a neutral, “non-smart,” biocompatible hydrogel forming building block, Pluronic F127 (PF127), as a starting molecule. The PEO–PPO–PEO copolymer was modified with telechelic methacrylic end functionalities to form a triblock linear prepolymer with crosslinkable end groups (crosslinker). This bifunctional prepolymer, PF127 bismethacrylate (PF127BMA), was copolymerized covalently with anionic methacrylic acid sodium salt groups into a nonsoluble 3D hydrogel network in the presence of redox initiators. The polyelectrolyte domains in the pluronic hydrogel afforded controllable swelling capabilities with volumetric expansion exceeding 8500% in deionized water or 1400% in Krebs solution. The hydrogels were further assessed for their mechanical and electroactive response as a function of increasing acid salt content. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 41195.