Mechanically Robust Hydrophobized Double Network Hydrogels for Water Purification

16 April 2021, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


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, a series of double network hydrogels (DNHs), synthesized with varied composition to decrease water content, are examined as robust membrane materials for water purification. One network contains fixed anionic charges, while the other comprises a copolymer with different ratios of hydrophobic ethyl acrylate (EA) and hydrophilic dimethyl acrylamide (DMA) repeat units. Characterizing water content and mechanical performance in free standing DNH films reveals a ~5× decrease in water content, while increasing ultimate stress and strain by ~3.5× and ~4.5× for 90:5 EA:DMA relative to pure DMA. Salt transport properties relevant to water purification, including permeability, solubility, and diffusivity, are measured and show improved performance upon reducing water content. Overall, the ability to simultaneously reduce water content, increase mechanical integrity, and decrease salt transport rates highlights the potential of DNHs for membrane applications.


double network hydrogel
interpenetrating polymer network
ion exchange membrane
water purification

Supplementary materials

DNH ChemRxiv SI


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