Synthesis and characterization of expandable hydrogels for flexible electronics
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Hydrogels are aqueous microgels and have found their way in a considerable number of applications but often with the disadvantage of their poor mechanical properties. To apply such polymers for flexible electronics they should be transparent, easy to manufacture and expandable, beyond that they should be able to interact with the encapsulated electronics. Double crosslinked microgels (DX microgels) are shown to achieve these properties. hydrogels formed by linking together polymer networks show a unique structure-property relationship. The preparation of hydrogels made of purely biological and nontoxic precursors, is based on commonly used and cheap biopolymers like gelatine or chitosan. These hydrogels are reinforced by acrylate precursors. The produced materials are focused on acrylate polymers, because they are excellent for crosslinking via photopolymerization. Further, gels forming ionically and covalently crosslinked networks to improve stretchability, are produced. The structure and mechanical properties in the nanometre range are investigated by atomic force microscopy (AFM). Raman spectroscopy is complementary used to characterize the chemical structure and their changes in contact with water, salt solution or the encapsulated electronic. Information about wetting properties and adhesion are obtained by contact angle measurement.