Characterisation of hydrogels: linking the nano to the microscale

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38 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrogels are water enriched soft materials widely used for applications as varied as super absorbents, breast implants and contact lenses. Hydrogels have also been designed for smart functional devices including drug delivery, tissue engineering and diagnostics such as blood typing. The hydrogel properties and functionality depend on their crosslinking density, water holding capacity and fibre/polymer composition, strength and internal structure. Determining these parameters and properties are challenging. This review presents the main characterisation methods providing both qualitative and quantitative information of the structures and compositions of hydrogel. The length scale of interest ranges from the nano to the micro scale and the techniques and results are analysed in relationship to the hydrogel macroscopic applications. The characterisation methods examined aim at quantifying swelling, mechanical strength, mesh size, bound and free water content, pore structure, chemical composition, strength of chemical bonds and mechanical strength. These hydrogel parameters enable us to understand the fundamental mechanisms of hydrogel formation, to control their structure and functionality, and to optimize and tailor specific hydrogel properties to engineer particular applications.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102044
Number of pages18
JournalAdvances in Colloid and Interface Science
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


  • Atomic force microscopy (AFM)
  • Cryo-Transmission electron microscopy (TEM)
  • Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC)
  • Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • Hydrogel
  • Mechanical strength
  • Mesh size
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)
  • Scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
  • Small angle scattering (SAS)

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