Water recycling efficacies of extremely hygroscopic, antifouling hydrogels†
Water harvesting, reusable, and antifouling hydrogels have found various applications in the fields of nanotechnology, biomedicine, food production and agriculture. These water-releasing materials are generally comprised of hygroscopic natural polymers, such as alginate blended with ionic salts or thermo-responsive moieties, to aid the release of water from a network of hydrogels. In this report, we propose a simple strategy to develop novel, synthetic, hygroscopic hydrogels (in the absence of ionic salts or thermo-responsive moieties), capable of absorbing copious amount of water and allow the facile release of water at ambient temperatures, as a function of crosslinking density of the polymer chains. The first step in the development of hygroscopic hydrogels is the development of hygroscopic vitamin B5 analogous or pantothenic acid analogous monomer (B5AMA), by ring opening chemistry. The hygroscopic hydrogels are then prepared from B5AMA monomer at different cross-linker densities by free radical polymerization approach and are evaluated for their antifouling properties and for their water absorbing and release efficacies, as a function of temperature. The release of significant amount of water by B5AMA hydrogels at physiological temperature (37 °C), their repeated water absorption and desorption behavior and excellent antifouling properties, suggest their potential usage as water harvesting materials in arid regions.