Hydrogels that can stretch up to 1300% in size have been produced by Singapore University in co-operation with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Applications include soft robotics, fabricated bio-tissues, flexible touch panels and anything else that requires large deformation of material.
Hydrogels are a water absorbing chain of molecules currently being used for soft robotics and transparent touch panels. In the former they closely resemble biological musculature in their ability to use water to expand and contract. These unique abilities are activated by ultraviolet radiation (UV curing)
What makes hydrogel flexibility so useful in these recent advanced technologies? Well the more flexible a material is the more easily it can be used to 3D print high resolution complex geometries. For the longest time that has been an obstacle to 3D printing. Now after breaking the record for stretching hydrogels they will be able to print more sophisticated objects than ever.
The research was published in the journal of materials chemistry April 2018.
“We have developed the most stretchable 3D printed hydrogel sample in the world,”
said Assistant Professor Qi (Kevin) Ge from SUTD’s Science and Math Cluster, who is one of the co-leaders of this project.
He added: ” The printed hydrogel sample can be stretched by up to 1300%. At the same time, the compatibility of these hydrogels with digital light processing-based 3D printing technology allows us to fabricate hydrogel 3D structures with resolutions up to 7m and complex geometries.”
“The printed stretchable hydrogels show an excellent biocompatibility, which allows us to directly 3D print biostructures and tissues. The great optical clarity of these hydrogels offers the possibility of 3D printing contact lenses. More importantly, these 3D printable hydrogels can form strong interfacial bonding with commercial 3D printing elastomers, which allows us to directly 3D print hydrogel-elastomer hybrid structures such as a flexible electronic board with a conductive hydrogel circuit printed on an elastomer matrix,” said Professor Ge.
“Overall, we believe the highly stretchable and UV curable hydrogels, together with the UV curing based 3D printing techniques, will significantly enhance the capability of fabricating biostructures and tissue, contact lenses, flexible electronics, and many other applications,” said Professor Shlomo Magdassi who is a co-leader of this project at HUJI.
cover photo courtesy of Qi (Kevin) Ge