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3D Print Shape-Shifting Smart Gel

Reporter: Irina Robu, PhD

Hydrogel scaffolds that mimic the native extracellular matrix (ECM) environment play a crucial role in tissue engineering and they are ubiquitously in our lives, including in contact lenses, diapers and the human body.

Researchers at Rutgers have invented a printing method for a smart gel that can be used to create materials for transporting small molecules like drugs to human organs. The approach includes printing a 3D object with a hydrogel that changes shape over time when temperature changes. The potential of the smart hydrogels could be to create a new are of soft robotics and enable new applications in flexible sensors and actuators, biomedical devices and platforms or scaffolds for cells to grow.

Rutgers engineers operated with a hydrogel that has been in use for decades in devices that generate motion and biomedical applications such as scaffolds for cells to grow on. The engineers learned how to precisely control hydrogel growth and shrinkage. In temperatures below 32 degrees Celsius, the hydrogel absorbs more water and swells in size. When temperatures exceed 32 degrees Celsius, the hydrogel begins to expel water and shrinks, the study showed.

According to the Rutgers engineers, the objects they can produce with the hydrogel range from the width of a human hair to several millimeters long. The engineers also showed that they can grow one area of a 3D-printed object by changing temperatures.

Source

https://news.rutgers.edu/rutgers-engineers-3d-print-shape-shifting-smart-gel/20180131

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