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J Mater Sci Mater Med. 2003 Jan;14(1):9-15.

Thermal analysis of poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (pHEMA) hydrogels.

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  • 1Department of Bio-Medical Physics and Bio-Engineering, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK. j.meakin@biomed.abdn.ac.uk


The influence of water on the physical properties of a hydrogel is important for understanding natural tissues and in designing synthetic materials to replace them. In this study, poly (2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (pHEMA) was used as a model system to understand how water interacts with the polymer of a hydrogel. Thermal analysis methods (thermogravimetric analysis coupled to mass spectrometry and differential scanning calorimetry) were used to determine: (i) the total water content of pHEMA gels; (ii) how this water was lost during heating; (iii) the relationship between water content of the gel and its glass transition temperature; and (iv) the behavior of the water in the gel on cooling. Previous researchers have invoked various models to describe the organization of water in a hydrogel. In this study, the simplest model which could explain all of the results from the different thermal analysis techniques was one which consisted of three classes of water: (i) hydration water in close proximity to the polymer; (ii) interstitial water in regions or cavities surrounded by polymer chains; and (iii) bulk water.

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