Research Area #3: Hybrid Inorganic/Polymer Hydrogels

Research Image #3 copy

Image: By functionalizing both the ends of a polymer chain and the surface of an inorganic nanoparticle with oppositely charged moieties, ionic attraction will link these flexible polymer and rigid nanoparticle building blocks into porous hydrogel architectures.

Traditional hydrogels consist primarily of either small molecule or flexible linear polymer building blocks, where the physical properties of gels are determined as a function of their internal structures. In principle, utilizing semi-rigid polymers and/or rigid inorganic materials (both of which have drastically different mechanical properties than traditional linear polymers) should allow for gels that have different material properties (stiffness, porosity, etc.) than those made out of highly flexible building blocks.

In this research area, our group examines how making gels out of unique organic and inorganic components that are more rigid than typical hydrogel materials affects hydrogel mechanical properties. This work will establish core relationships between the design of hydrogel components and the physical properties of a gel, elucidating a set of principles for synthesizing hydrogels specifically tailored for various applications.

Key Concepts: Hydrogels, Polymer Chemistry, Mechanical Properties, Structure/Property Relationships
Potential Applications: Drug delivery, Cell/Tissue Scaffolding, Energy Storage

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