Ameya Phadke, a fourth year PhD student in Varghese's lab said the hydrogel's strength and flexibility in an acidic environment similar to that of the stomach makes it ideal as an adhesive to heal stomach perforations or for controlled drug delivery to ulcers.
Such healing material could also be useful in the field of energy conservation and recycling where self-healing materials could help reduce industrial and consumer waste, according to Varghese. Additionally, the rapidity of self-healing in response to acids makes the material a promising candidate to seal leakages from containers containing corrosive acids. To test this theory, her lab cut a hole in the bottom of a plastic container, "healed" it by sealing the hole with the hydrogel and demonstrated that it prevented any leakage of acid through the hole.
Moving forward, Varghese and her lab hope to test the material in its envisioned applications on a larger scale. The team also hopes to engineer other varieties of hydrogels that self-heal at different pH values, thereby extending the applications of such hydrogels beyond acidic conditions.
|Contact: Catherine Hockmuth|
University of California - San Diego