Thirty Years of Amphiphilic Polymer Co-networks
Amphiphilic polymer co-networks (APCNs) constitute a type of polymeric hydrogels, endowed with hydrophobic polymer segments in addition to their hydrophilic components, which results in lower aqueous swelling and, consequently, better mechanical properties than conventional hydrogels. When swollen in water, the APCN hydrophobic segments self-associate, leading to the formation of larger, micelle-like hydrophobic domains. Therefore, APCNs represent the network analogues to polymeric surfactants, with the added advantage of a solid-like nature arising from their network character. This new class of polymers attracts increasing attention from the scientific, technological, biomedical and industrial communities, resulting in further basic research on the system and also new applications. This chapter introduces APCNs, provides a brief historical overview of the APCN field since its origin in 1988 with the pioneering and independent work of Kennedy and Stadler, and previews all the chapters that follow. Furthermore, other important work on APCNs not covered in this book is also summarised. Finally, conclusions, together with an outlook towards future developments in the area, are given.