What are Hydrogels?
Hydrogels are a type of porous material made from polymers such as acrylic or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). They have been used in many products including medical devices, food packaging, construction materials and much more. These polymers are commonly known as “plasticizers”. One of their most common uses is in the manufacture of plastic bags and other containers.
The main properties of hydrogels include flexibility, strength and resistance to abrasion. Some types of hydrogels have even been found to be resistant to heat up to 600°C.
There are two major classes of hydrogels; those with a liquid phase and those without a liquid phase. Liquid-phase hydrogels are those which contain water, and those without a liquid phase contain no water.
Water-containing hydrogels are usually produced using the following processes:
Polymerization of organic compounds (e.g., hydrocarbons) into ethylene glycol or propylene glycol (the latter being used in antifreeze), followed by dehydration and/or polymerization to form a gel-like substance.
Production of a hydrogel can also begin with a process called nucleation. In this process, a material such as granite is mixed in with the liquid that will turn into the hydrogel.
This process must be done under very strict temperature controls. Once this mixture is created, it is then put into a container where the temperature can further be controlled in order to speed up or slow down the reaction.
What Are The Applications Of Hydrogels?
Due to their ability to absorb a large amount of water while also being strong and flexible, hydrogels are used in many different ways. Some medical uses include:
Photolithography: This process is used in the creation of integrated circuits (chips). Hydrogels are able to hold a liquid that is then hardened in a pattern, much like a scaffold holds together bones in our body.
Bandages: In addition to being able to hold a large amount of water, hydrogels also adhere strongly to skin. This creates a strong bond that helps fight off any bacteria that may get into a wound or cut.
Drug Delivery: One of the most common uses of hydrogels is in drug delivery. Due to their ability to absorb water, hydrogels can be used to slowly release certain drugs over long periods of time.
What Are The Advantages Of Using Hydrogels?
One of the major advantages of hydrogels is their ability to maintain their strength and integrity while also having the ability to adapt its shape according to its environment. This makes it very useful in a lot of different ways including:
It can be stretched, bent and twisted without breaking down.
It can be easily molded into different shapes while still maintaining its strong, flexible and resilient properties.
It can easily adapt to changes in its environment (changing temperature, for example).
It has a high tolerance for acids and alkalis, making it ideal for use in a large number of different situations.
Due to the space between the polymer chains that make up hydrogels, these materials have exceptional ability to absorb water. This means they can hold a large amount of it while still remaining lightweight and flexible.
What Are The Disadvantages?
Despite the many advantages that hydrogels have to offer, they do have their limitations. It’s important to understand these limitations before deciding whether or not hydrogels are the right material for your project. Some of these limitations include:
Hydrogels are mostly composed of water. This means that prolonged contact with high levels of electricity or an open flame can cause them to ignite.
Sources & references used in this article:
Effect of hydrogel on the performance of aerobic rice sown under different techniques by A Rehman, R Ahmad, M Safdar – Plant, Soil and Environment, 2011 – agriculturejournals.cz
Super-absorbent water crystals by PAM Cationic – puyallup.wsu.edu
The informed gardener by LK Chalker-Scott – 2013 – books.google.com
Summer enrichment programs to foster interest in STEM education for students with blindness or low vision by CA Supalo, AA Hill, CG Larrick – Journal of Chemical Education, 2014 – ACS Publications
The Truth about Garden Remedies: What Works, what Doesn’t & why by J Gillman – 2008 – books.google.com
Smart’windows could save energy by S Perkins – Science News for Students, 2015 – sciencenewsforstudents.org