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Integration of Hydrogels with Hard and Soft Microstructures

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Hydrogels, i.e., water-swollen polymer networks, have been studied and utilized for decades. These materials can either passively support mass transport, or can actively respond in their swelling properties, enabling modulation of mass and fluid transport, and chemomechanical actuation. Response rates increase with decreasing hydrogel dimension. In this paper, we present three examples where incorporation of hydrogels into solid microstructures permits acceleration of their response, and also provides novel functional capabilities. In the first example, a hydrogel is immobilized inside microfabricated pores within a thin silicon membrane. This hydrogel does not have a swelling response under the conditions investigated, but under proper conditions it can be utilized as a part of an electrolytic diode. In the second example, hydrogels are polymerized under microcantilever beams, and their swelling response to pH or glucose concentration causes variable deflection of the beam, observable under a microscope. In the third example, swelling and shrinking of a hydrogel embedded in a microfabricated valve structure leads to chemical gating of fluid motion through that valve. In all cases, the small size of the system enhances its response rate.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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  • Journal for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (JNN) is an international and multidisciplinary peer-reviewed journal with a wide-ranging coverage, consolidating research activities in all areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology into a single and unique reference source. JNN is the first cross-disciplinary journal to publish original full research articles, rapid communications of important new scientific and technological findings, timely state-of-the-art reviews with author's photo and short biography, and current research news encompassing the fundamental and applied research in all disciplines of science, engineering and medicine.
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