Broader Research Goals:
Poly(alkoxy ether)s as platforms for stimuli-responsive materials. Our group uses living anionic polymerization to synthesize poly(glycidyl ether) derivatives that afford multi-stimuli-responsive hydrogels. These materials physically change in response to external stimuli such as temperature, pressure, and light. We develop and interrogate structure property relationships of our materials by using synthetic chemistry and supramolecular chemistry to design polymers that we primarily characterize using rheology (among other characterization techniques).
Living materials and their analogs. Living materials are composites of living cells residing within a polymeric matrix, and a unique feature of these materials is that the cells are metabolically active. Our group develops stimuli-responsive hydrogels for fabricating living materials via 3D printing.
Actuating hydrogels. We use direct-write printing to create stimuli-responsive 3D printed hydrogels, which can fold in response to an external stimulus. 3D printing enables rapid iteration to achieve optimized designs for actuating hydrogels.
Recent Research Interests:
Catalytically Initiated Gel-in-Gel Printing of Composite Hydrogels
Herein, we describe a method to 3D print robust hydrogels and hydrogel composites
via gel-in- gel 3D printing with catalytically activated polymerization to induce cross-linking. A
polymerizable shear-thinning hydrogel ink with tetramethylethylenediamine as catalyst was
directly extruded into a shear-thinning hydrogel support bath with ammonium persulfate as
initiator in a pattern-wise manner. When the two gels came into contact, the free radicals
generated by the catalyst initiated the free-radical polymerization of the hydrogel ink Unlike
photo-curing, a catalyst-initiated polymerization is suitable for printing hydrogel composites of
varying opacity since it does not depend upon light penetration through the sample. The hydrogel support bath also exhibited a temperature responsive behavior in which the gel ‘melted’ upon cooling below 16 °C. Therefore, the printed object was easily removed by cooling the gel to a liquid state. Hydrogel composites with graphene oxide and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) were successfully printed. The printed composites with MWCNTs afforded photo- thermally active objects, which have utility as stimuli-responsive actuators.
Cross-linkable multi-stimuli responsive hydrogel inks for direct-write 3D printing
Triple stimuli-responsive ABA triblock copolymer hydrogels composed of poly(allyl glycidyl ether)-stat-poly(alkyl glycidyl ether)-block-poly(ethylene glycol)-block-poly(allyl glycidyl ether)-stat-poly(alkyl glycidyl ether) were synthesized using controlled ring-opening polymerization of glycidyl ethers. These polymers form triple stimuli-responsive hydrogels that respond to temperature, pressure (shear-thinning), and UV light. The stimuli-responsive behaviors of the gels were dependent upon the composition and the molecular weight of the ‘A’ blocks of the triblock copolymers. The hydrogels were analyzed rheometrically to characterize their stimuli-responsive properties. The optimized compositions were 3D printed using a direct-write 3D printer to afford robust 3D objects. We anticipate these materials creating new opportunities in the biomedical and biotechnological fields, by enabling the simple and rapid fabrication of 3D hydrogels.