Preparation of composite amphiphilic hydrogel anti-fouling materials

A new study provides a creative approach to optimising the adhesion and anti-fouling properties of hydrogel anti-fouling materials.

A ship.
Excellent anti-fouling performance was observed for the test panels in practical marine environments.  Image source: JosepMonter - Pixabay (symbol image).

Amphiphilic hydrogel/organic substrate interfaces are commonly generated with a hydrophobic layer, which enhances underwater adhesion of the hydrogel via aggregation and assembly of the oleophilic structural units in the amphiphilic hydrogel. However, water absorption is considerably weakened by the hydrophobic interactions, which inhibits the formation of a stable hydration layer at the hydrogel/aqueous interface and leads to degradation of the anti-fouling ability of the amphiphilic hydrogel. Now, composite amphiphilic hydrogel anti-fouling materials were prepared by mixing an amphiphilic hydrogel prepolymer and the pure aqueous structural units of a hydrogel prepolymer.

Better anti-fouling effect

In particular, adhesion of the hydrogels was strengthened by the oleophilic structural units of the amphiphilic hydrogel, and the hydrophilic structural units of the pure aqueous hydrogel formed a stable hydration layer at the hydrogel/aqueous interface; thus, the anti-fouling performance was strongly enhanced. As a result, superior adhesion of the composite amphiphilic hydrogel was maintained, and its resistance to shedding was clearly manifested in the experimental results obtained after immersion in static seawater (60 d) and rotating seawater (30 d); additionally, the water absorption capacity and anti-fouling effect were significantly better than those of the control amphiphilic hydrogel materials.

The study has been published in Progress in Organic Coatings, Volume 179, June 2023.

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