Surface grafted chitosan gels. Part II. Gel formation and characterization

Chao Liu, Esben Thormann, Per M. Claesson, Eric Tyrode

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Responsive biomaterial hydrogels attract significant attention due to their biocompatibility and degradability. In order to make chitosan based gels, we first graft one layer of chitosan to silica, and then build a chitosan/poly(acrylic acid) multilayer using the layer-by-layer approach. After cross-linking the chitosan present in the polyelectrolyte multilayer, poly(acrylic acid) is partly removed by exposing the multilayer structure to a concentrated carbonate buffer solution at a high pH, leaving a surface-grafted cross-linked gel. Chemical cross-linking enhances the gel stability against detachment and decomposition. The chemical reaction between gluteraldehyde, the cross-linking agent, and chitosan was followed in situ using total internal reflection Raman (TIRR) spectroscopy, which provided a molecular insight into the complex reaction mechanism, as well as the means to quantify the cross-linking density. The amount of poly(acrylic acid) trapped inside the surface grafted films was found to decrease with decreasing cross-linking density, as confirmed in situ using TIRR, and ex situ by Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) measurements on dried films. The responsiveness of the chitosan-based gels with respect to pH changes was probed by quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation (QCM-D) and TIRR. Highly cross-linked gels show a small and fully reversible behavior when the solution pH is switched between pH 2.7 and 5.7. In contrast, low cross-linked gels are more responsive to pH changes, but the response is fully reversible only after the first exposure to the acidic solution, once an internal restructuring of the gel has taken place. Two distinct pKa's for both chitosan and poly(acrylic acid), were determined for the cross-linked structure using TIRR. They are associated with populations of chargeable groups displaying either a bulk like dissociation behavior or forming ionic complexes inside the hydrogel film. © 2014 American Chemical Society.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number29
Pages (from-to)8878-8888
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Electrochemistry
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Materials Science (all)
  • Spectroscopy
  • Biocompatibility
  • Biological materials
  • Carboxylic acids
  • Chitosan
  • Crosslinking
  • Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy
  • Gels
  • Grafting (chemical)
  • Hydrogels
  • Polyelectrolytes
  • Polyethylenes
  • Refractive index
  • Carbonate buffer solutions
  • Complex reaction mechanism
  • Crosslinked structures
  • Fourier transform infrared
  • Layer-by-layer approaches
  • Polyelectrolyte multilayer
  • Quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation
  • Total internal reflections
  • Multilayers


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