Mechanically robust hydrophobized double network hydrogels and their fundamental salt transport properties

Marshall J. Allen, Rahul Sujanani, Alyssa Chamseddine, Benny D. Freeman, Zachariah A. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Water swollen polymer networks are attractive for applications ranging from tissue regeneration to water purification. For water purification, charged polymers provide excellent ion separation properties. However, many ion exchange membranes (IEMs) are brittle, necessitating the use of thick support materials that ultimately decrease throughput. To this end, novel double network hydrogels (DNHs) with variable water content are prepared and characterized in terms of mechanical and ion transport properties to evaluate their potential utility as tough membrane materials. The first network contains fixed anionic charges, while the other is comprised of a copolymer with varied ratios of hydrophobic ethyl acrylate (EA) and hydrophilic dimethyl acrylamide (DMA) repeat units. Characterization of freestanding DNH films reveals a reduction in water content from 88 to 53 wt% and a simultaneous increase in ultimate stress and strain by ~3.5× and ~4.5×, respectively, for 95%/5% EA/DMA, relative to 100% DMA. Fundamental salt transport properties relevant to water purification, including permeability, solubility, and diffusivity, are measured and systematically compared with conventional membrane materials to inform the development of DNHs for membrane applications. The ability to simultaneously reduce water content and increase mechanical integrity highlights the potential of DNHs as a synthetic platform for future membrane applications.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Polymer Science
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 26 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • double network hydrogel
  • interpenetrating polymer network
  • ion transport
  • membranes

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