Novel high water content hydrogels

  • B.K. Benning

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Hydrogels may be described as cross-linked hydrophilic polymers that swell but do not dissolve in water. The production of high water content hydrogels was the subject of investigation. Based upon copolymer compositions that had already achieved commercial success as biomaterials, new monomers were added or substituted in and the effects observed.
The addition of N-isopropyl acrylamide to an acrylamide-based composition that had previously been designed to become a contact lens, produced materials that showed smart effects in that the water content showed dependence on the temperature of the hydrating solution. Such thermo-responsive materials have potential uses in drug delivery, ultrafiltration and cell culture surfaces.
Proteoglycans in nature have an important role to play in structural support where a highly hydrophilic structure maintains lubricious surfaces. Certain functional groups that impart this hydrophilicity are present in certain sulphonate monomers, Bis(3-sulphopropyl ester) itaconate, dipotassium salt (SPI), 3-Sulphopropyl ester acrylate, potassium salt (SPA) and Sodium 2-(acrylamido)-2-methyl propane sulphonate (NaAMPS). These monomers were incorporated into a HEMA-based copolymer that had been designed initially as a contact lens and the resulting effects examined. Highly hydrophilic materials resulted that showed reduced protein deposition over the neutral core material. It is postulated that a sulphonate group would have a larger number of hydration shells around it than for example methacrylic acid, leading to more dynamic exchange and so reducing the adsorption of biological solutes.
A cationic monomer was added to bring back the net anionic nature of the sulphonate hydrogels and the effects studied. Ionic interactions were found to cause a reduction in the water content of the resulting materials as the mobility of the network decreased, leading to stiffer but less extensible materials. The presence of a net dominant charge, whether negative or positive, appeared to act to reduce protein deposition, but increasing equivalence in the amount of both charges served to present a more 'neutral' surface and deposition subsequently increased.
The grafting of hydrophilic hydrogel layers onto silicone elastomer was attempted and the results evaluated using dynamic contact angle measurements. Following plasma oxidation to reduce the surface energy barrier to aqueous grafting chemistry, it was found that the wettability of the modified elastomers could be significantly enhanced by such treatment. The SPA-grafted material in particular hinted at an osmotic drive for rehydration that may be exploited in biomaterials.
Date of AwardSept 2000
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBrian Tighe (Supervisor)


  • hydrogel
  • ionic
  • sulphonate
  • hydrophilic
  • aqueous grafting
  • wettable
  • spoliation

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