Ice templating water-stable macroporous polysaccharide hydrogels to mimic plant stems

13 May 2024, Version 1
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Water-stable macroporous hydrogels, inspired by the structural and chemical characteristics of plant stems are expected to open a wide range of possibilities in soft materials for passive liquid transport. However, obtaining efficient materials for these applications still poses a major challenge due to the complexity of shaping hydrogels at the relevant scale-length. Here, water-stable macroporous hydrogels were fabricated using alginate and TEMPO-oxidized cellulose via a new approach involving ice templating and topotactic ion-crosslinking with Ca2+. This approach allows to fully avoid the energy-intensive lyophilization process and results in composite hydrogels with pore sizes akin to those found in celery xylem, a model we chose for plant stems. Importantly, the pore size could be tailored by adjusting both the ice-growth velocities and the ratios of alginate to oxidized cellulose. The resulting hydrogels displayed remarkable water stability along with viscoelastic properties and wettability that depend on the alginate and oxidized cellulose ratios. Mechanical properties, such as compression stress and toughness, consistently increased with higher alginate contents. In addition, liquid transport measurements on crosslinked hydrogels with varying compositions and ice growth velocities revealed comparable rising speeds to those observed in celery, confirming the ability of polysaccharide-based hydrogels obtained by ice templating and topotactic crosslinking as relevant materials to mimic the function of plant stems.


Capillary liquid transport
Cellulose nanocrystals


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.