Phase separation induced mechanical properties of hydrogels for biomedical applications (Start Date : January 2023)
Hydrogels are actively being investigated as mimics of extracellular matrix where cells feel as natural environment as in in vivo. Such materials have great potential for advancing biomedical applications such as engineering of harder living tissues (e.g., cartilage, muscle, tendon, and bone) as well as more stable biofabrication strategies (e.g., bio-inks and 3D printing baths),wearable bioelectronics, soft robotics, biosensing. However, these hydrogels are made of polymer networks which are further crosslinked via chemical, physical & supramolecular bonds to form jelly-like structures. These hydrogel systems can be tuned mechanically by altering the composition, crosslinking density, functionality etc. However, when combining two or more types of polymer networks, it enhances the mechanical properties of the bulk hydrogel. There are not many investigations available till now on how these different polymer networks contribute to the overall mechanical property. Hence we hypothesize, “phase separation” (i,e) two polymer networks are separated into two phases inside the hydrogels collectively contributes to the mechanical property of the hydrogel.
· To study new class of phase separating polymer networks.
· Form hydrogels with optimized formulations of the polymer network.
· Characterize these networks using state of art micro-rheological techniques.
· Visualize the phase separation using super resolution microscopic techniques.
· Apply the different hydrogel systems to biological applications.
Sato, K. et al. Phase-Separation-Induced Anomalous Stiffening, Toughening, and Self-Healing of Polyacrylamide Gels. Adv. Mater., 27: 6990-6998 (2015).