UV-Triggered On-Demand Temperature-Responsive Reversible and Irreversible Gelation of Cellulose Nanocrystals

Christoph Hörenz, Kia Bertula, Tony Tiainen, Sami Hietala, Ville Hynninen, Olli Ikkala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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We show ionically cross-linked, temperature-responsive reversible or irreversible hydrogels of anionic cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs) and methacrylate terpolymers by mixing them homogeneously in the initially charge-neutral state of the polymer, which was subsequently switched to be cationic by cleaving side groups by UV irradiation. The polymer is a random terpolymer poly(di(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate)-rnd-poly(oligo(ethylene glycol) methyl ether methacrylate)-rnd-poly(2-((2-nitrobenzyl)oxycarbonyl)aminoethyl methacrylate), that is, PDEGMA-rnd-POEGMA-rnd-PNBOCAEMA. The PDEGMA and POEGMA repeating units lead to a lower critical solution temperature (LCST) behavior. Initially, homogeneous aqueous mixtures are obtained with CNCs, and no gelation is observed even upon heating to 60 °C. However, upon UV irradiation, the NBOCAEMAs are transformed to cationic 2-aminoethyl methacrylate (AEMA) groups, as 2-nitrobenzaldehyde moieties are cleaved. The resulting mixtures of anionic CNC and cationic PDEGMA-rnd-POEGMA-rnd-PAEMA show gelation for sufficiently high polymer fractions upon heating to 60 °C due to the interplay of ionic interactions and LCST. For short heating times, the gelation is thermoreversible, whereas for long enough heating times, irreversible gels can be obtained, indicating importance of kinetic aspects. The ionic nature of the cross-linking is directly shown by adding NaCl, which leads to gel melting. In conclusion, the optical triggering of the polymer ionic interactions in combination with its LCST phase behavior allows a new way for ionic nanocellulose hydrogel assemblies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)830-838
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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