Proton transfer polymerization between thiol and epoxide groups is shown to be an adaptable and utilitarian method for the synthesis of hydrogels. For instance, the polymerization catalyst can be organic or inorganic, and the polymerization medium can be pure water, buffer solutions, or organic solvents. The gelation mechanism can be triggered at ambient conditions, at a physiological temperature of 37 °C, or through using light as an external stimulus. The ambient and photochemical methods both allow for nanoimprint lithography to produce freestanding patterned thick films. The required thiol- and epoxide-carrying precursors can be chosen from a long list of commercially available small molecular as well as polymeric materials. The water uptake, mechanical, and biodegradation properties of the gels can, therefore, be tuned through the choice of appropriate gelation precursors and polymerization conditions. Finally, the thio-ether groups of the cross-linked networks can be functionalized through a postgelation modification reaction to access sulfonium-based cationic structures. Such structural changes endow antibacterial properties to the networks. In their pristine form, however, the gels are biocompatible and nonadhesive, allowing cancer cells to grow in a cluster formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry