Water transport in polymer composites through swelling-induced networks of hydrogel particles

Johannes Eiler, Søren Bredmose Simonsen, Daniel Hansen, Bahar Bingöl, Kristoffer Hansen, Esben Thormann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Water diffusion in polymer composites is not only affected by the chemical nature of the materials but also by their internal structures. To enable the design of polymer composites with controlled diffusion kinetics, we investigate the effect of hydrogel particle networks on the water transport. The composites in this study comprise hydrogel particles based on sodium poly(acrylic acid), which are incorporated at different concentrations into a soft and sticky polymer matrix. Through the use of X-ray micro computed tomography, the internal structure of the polymer composites is examined and the interparticle distances are calculated. The structure of the composites is then related to the water diffusion kinetics upon exposure to saline solution as well as humid air. Even though the hydrogel particles are isolated and the interparticle distances are in the order of several micrometers, a sudden increase in the water diffusion kinetics is observed above a critical concentration. Due to the low water permeability of the matrix, such a change in the water diffusion kinetics is indicative of network formation. During hydration, swelling enables the hydrogels to overcome the interparticle distances and form a network for water transport.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSoft Matter
Volume16
Issue number35
Pages (from-to)8254-8261
ISSN1744-683X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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