Although we may not recognize them for what they are, hydrogels are very useful and are becoming more and more common each day. We can find hydrogels in a wide variety of today’s products, from medical devices to contact lenses to your lunchtime Jell-O snackpack.
So, what exactly is a hydrogel?
A hydrogel is a three-dimensional network that is made by crosslinking water soluble polymers. Its porosity, soft consistency, and high water content make it the closest thing we can come to simulating natural tissue (bet you just put your Jell-O down, didn’t you…).
Hydrogels can be crosslinked either physically or chemically. The physical crosslinking process produces weak, unstable bonds that degrade over time. Chemically crosslinked hydrogels, in contrast, have permanent bonds that lead to better stability and mechanical strength.
Chemical crosslinking can be started by introducing one of the many chemical free radical initiators, such as benzoyl peroxide. The drawback with most of these chemicals, though, is that they are extremely toxic and will remain in the final product, leaching out over time. Because of this leaching process, these chemicals need to be forcefully extracted up front in a process that can take several weeks.
For a manufacturer who wants to efficiently produce an effective product, so far neither the physical nor chemical methods of crosslinking hydrogels sound terribly appealing. But what if I were to tell you there were a third option?
This is where E-BEAM comes in. Using the ionizing power of our electron beam, we can crosslink hydrogels without any toxic chemical additives. This means a product with strong, permanent bonds WITHOUT the expensive and time-consuming extraction process.
But wait, there’s more!
E-BEAM crosslinking also has the beneficial side effect of sterilizing your product. This can be done in the final packaging, so it is ready to hit the stores or hospitals right after processing. This is especially important for medical devices like wound dressings, hygiene products, drug delivery systems, and products in the emerging field of tissue engineering.
If you would like more information, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 513-933-0031 for a free consultation with one of our Technical Services representatives!