Jul 07, 2016 08:43 AM EDT
Good News For Contact Lenses Users, Artificial Skin Donee: MIT Engineers Finds Out How To Prevent Hydrogels From Drying Out
Now engineers at MIT have found a way to prevent hydrogels from dehydrating, with a technique that could lead to longer-lasting contact lenses, stretchy microfluidic devices, flexible bioelectronics, and even artificial skin.
The research engineers led by Xuanhe Zhao and the Robert N. Noyce Career Development Associate Professor in MIT's Department of Mechanical Engineering developed a method to bind hydrogels to elastomers (elastic polymers) like rubber and silicone which are elastic similar to hydrogels but impermeable to water. The MIT team found that coating hydrogels with a thin layer of elastomer provides a water-trapping blockade keeping the hydrogel moist, robust and flexible, MITNews posted.
This results of this MIT research are published in the journal Nature Communications.
The research group had its design inspiration from human skin that is self-possessed with an outer epidermis layer bonded the dermis layer underneath. Acting as a shield, the epidermis is protecting the dermis and its complex nerves and capillaries network including the rest of the body's organs and muscles, from drying out.
The MIT team's hydrogel-elastomer prototype is same in design to the bond between the epidermis and dermis. This hybrid is in fact multiple times stronger than the original. The team also developed a bodily model to quantitatively guide the design of several hydrogel-elastomer bonds. Additionally, they are exploring various uses for the hybrid, as well as artificial skin.
The reasearch's lead author is MIT graduate student Hyunwoo Yuk and it is co-authored by other MIT graduate students Xinyue Liu and German Alberto Parada and former Zhao group post-doctorate Teng Zhang, currently an assistant professor at Syracuse University.
Back in December 2015, Zhao's team was reportedly had developed a technique to attain extremely robust bonding of hydrogels to solid exteriors, for example: ceramic, glass and metal, MITNews added. The researchers cast-off the technique to insert electronic sensors inside hydrogels to produce a "smart" bandage. However, they found outthat the hydrogel would eventually dry out and lose its flexibility.
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