Researchers at Princeton University have developed a hydrogel that forms when fibers slide against each other as they are forced through a syringe. The chemical-free shearing method could be used in wound treatment and other areas.
Because of their physical properties—porosity, water content, and squishiness—hydrogels are an important substance in many scientific disciplines. Not least in the rapidly growing field of 3D bioprinting, in which hydrogels are used to keep individually unprintable living cells in a solid and printable form.
Creating an effective hydrogel is difficult, generally requiring chemical reactions and material interactions, but researchers at Princeton have developed a hydrogel that requires no such chemicals. Rather, the hydrogel simply forms via the shearing effect of fibers sliding against each other when forced through a syringe.
The researchers are understandably pretty excited about their new creation, and think it could be used to plug and treat wounds, even opening up an entire new class of injectable hydrogels for biomedicine and other fields.
“Studying the flow of matter in suspensions containing such highly flexible fibers had never really been attempted before,” claims Antonio Perazzo, co-lead author of a research paper documenting the study. “Pursuing novel research has given us this unprecedented result of flow-induced gelation with flexible fibers.”