Velcro is a very useful material and there is a soft, flexible alternative material that has the same properties. Scientists at the University of California created a self-repairing hydrogel that could combine the Velcro process at the molecular level and bind within a few seconds. The hydrogel that is developed has the potential to be used in surgical sutures, targeted drug delivery, self-healing plastics and industrial adhesives.
The dangling side chain molecules, which resemble lean and long fingers and stretch to each other, provide a jelly-like hydrogel characteristic of a polymer. In the process of developing a hydrogel, a team led by bioengineer Shyni Varghese conducted computer simulations that would help determine the ideal length for these molecules. The material obtained can heal itself almost immediately by bonding itself or other hydrogel pieces.
Adjusting pH of the medium provides control on the behavior of the material. Conducted tests shows that two hydrogel fragments can be combined with each other when placed in a low pH acidic solution. On the other hand, when the basicity of this solution is raised, they are separated easily. The process was repeated several times without losing the strength of the welding point when the pieces were joined.
As a result of its strength in an acidic environment, it may be extremely useful to work with in stomach such as closing ulcers. This hydrogel may also be suitable to coat the holes formed in the acid containers, so that they can be used in the laboratory as well.
Now the scientists aim to create other versions of self-healing hydrogels with different pH levels, which will allow the use of this hydrogel not only in acidic but also in basic conditions.