|Institution:||Texas A&M University|
|Full text PDF:||http://hdl.handle.net/1969.1/ETD-TAMU-2687|
Nanoporous polymer hydrogels offer a desirable combination of mechanical, optical, and transport characteristics that have placed them at the core of a variety of biomedical technologies including engineered tissue scaffolds, substrates for controlled release of pharmaceutical compounds, and sieving matrices for electrophoretic separation of DNA and proteins. Ultimately, we would like to obtain a detailed picture of the nanoscale pore morphology and understand how it can be manipulated so that we can rationally identify gel formulations best suited for a specific application. But this goal has proven elusive because the most fundamental descriptors of the pore network architecture (e.g., the average pore size and its polydispersity) are particularly difficult to measure in polymer hydrogels. Here we introduce an approach that enables both the mean pore size and the pore size distribution to be quantitatively determined without prior knowledge of any physical material parameters A novel technique to prepare TEM samples was developed so that the nanoscale hydrogel pore size, pore shape and distribution are clearly visualized and quantitatively studied for the first time. The pore sizes of the hydrogel are also estimated with rheology. A new fixture is used in the rheometer and the whole polymerization process can be directly studied using an in-situ rheology experiment. A series of thermoporometry experiments are also conducted, and suitable methods and equations to study hydrogel pore size and distribution are chosen. The pore size derived from TEM, rheology, DSC is compared and their values are self-consistent. These techniques help us understand how the nanoporous morphology of crosslinked polyacrylamide hydrogels is influenced by their chemical composition and polymerization conditions. It is interesting to find hydrogels with similar pore size but different distribution. For two hydrogels with similar pore size, the broader the distribution, the faster the release rate and the higher the accumulated release percentage. So we can control the release of trapped molecules by simply varying the hydrogel pore size distribution. This discovery would have a very promising potential in the application of pharmaceuticals.