Novel Hydrogels from Renewable Resources
Type of Degreedissertation
Polymer and Fiber Engineering
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The cell wall of most plant biomass from forest and agricultural resources consists of three major polymers, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. Of these, hemicelluloses have gained increasing attention as sustainable raw materials. In the first part of this study, novel pH-sensitive semi-IPN hydrogels based on hemicelluloses and chitosan were prepared using glutaraldehyde as the crosslinking agent. The hemicellulose isolated from aspen was analyzed for sugar content by HPLC, and its molecular weight distribution was determined by high performance size exclusion chromatography. Results revealed that hemicellulose had a broad molecular weight distribution with a fair amount of polymeric units, together with xylose, arabinose and glucose. The effect of hemicellulose content on mechanical properties and swelling behavior of hydrogels were investigated. The semi-IPNs hydrogel structure was confirmed by FT-IR, X-ray study and ninhydrin assay method. X-ray analysis showed that higher hemicellulose contents yielded higher crystallinity. Mechanical properties were mainly dependent on the crosslink density and average molecular weight between crosslinks. Swelling ratios increased with increasing hemicellulose content and were high at low pH values due to repulsion between similarly charged groups. In vitro release study of a model drug showed that these semi-IPN hydrogels could be used for controlled drug delivery into gastric fluid. The aim of the second part of this study was to control the crosslink density and the mechanical properties of hemicellulose/chitosan semi-IPN hydrogels by changing the crosslinking sequence. It has been hypothesized that by performing the crosslinking step before introducing hemicellulose, covalent crosslinking of chitosan would not be hindered and therefore more and/or shorter crosslinks could be formed. Furthermore, additional secondary interactions and crystalline domains introduced through hemicellulose could be favorable in terms of mechanical stability of semi-IPN hydrogels. In this last section of this study, the natural affinity of hemicellulose to cellulose was utilized to coat cellulose whiskers with chemically modified hemicellulose isolated from wood fiber. Surface modified cellulose nanowhiskers were used to prepare nanocomposite hydrogels using free radical polymerization of 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA), a biocompatible monomer. The effect of morphology and concentration of the incorporated nanocrystals on the hydrogel network was related to the mechanical properties, viscoelastic behavior and swelling of the hydrogels.