Described in the journal Nature Communications, the findings show that these water-based gels — called homocomposite hydrogels — are both strong and flexible. They are composed of alginates — chemical compounds found in seaweed and algae that are commonly used as thickening agents and in wound dressings.
Merging different-size scale networks of the same alginate together eliminates the fragility that can sometimes occur when differing materials are merged together in a hydrogel, says Orlin Velev, S. Frank and Doris Culberson Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State and corresponding author of the paper.
“Water-based materials can be soft and brittle,” he said. “But these homocomposite materials — soft fibrillar alginate particles inside a medium of alginate — are really two hydrogels in one: one is a particle hydrogel and one is a molecular hydrogel. Merged together they produce a jelly-like material that is better than the sum of its parts, and whose properties can be tuned precisely for shaping through a 3D printer for on-demand manufacturing.”
“We are reinforcing a hydrogel material with the same material, which is remarkable because it uses just one material to improve the overall mechanical properties,” said Lilian Hsiao, an assistant professor of chemical and molecular engineering at NC State and a co-author of the paper. “Alginates are used in wound dressings, so this material potentially could be used as a strengthened 3D-printed bandage or as a patch for wound healing or drug delivery.
Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction