Researchers Develop 3D-Printable Seaweed Hydrogels

Seagriculture EU 2024

Researchers at North Carolina State U. have developed a 3D-printable jelly from seaweed that is strong and flexible. Photo courtesy of Orlin Velev, NC State University.

by Mick Kulikowski, North Carolina State U.

3D-printable hydrogels with improved and highly controlled properties can be created by merging micro- and nano-sized networks of the same materials harnessed from seaweed, according to new research from North Carolina State University. The findings could have applications in biomedical materials — think of biological scaffolds for growing cells — and soft robotics.

Described in the journal Nature Communications, the findings show that these water-based gels, called homocomposite hydrogels, are both strong and flexible. They are composed of alginates — chemical compounds that are commonly used as thickening agents and in wound dressings.

Merging different-size scale networks of the same alginate together eliminates the fragility that can sometimes occur when differing materials are merged together in a hydrogel, says Orlin Velev, S. Frank and Doris Culberson Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at NC State and corresponding author of the paper.

Two hydrogels in one

“Water-based materials can be soft and brittle,” he said. “But these homocomposite materials — soft fibrillar alginate particles inside a medium of alginate — are really two hydrogels in one. One is a particle hydrogel and one is a molecular hydrogel. Merged together they produce a jelly-like material that is better than the sum of its parts, and whose properties can be tuned precisely for shaping through a 3D printer for on-demand manufacturing.”

“We are reinforcing a hydrogel material with the same material, which is remarkable because it uses just one material to improve the overall mechanical properties,” said Lilian Hsiao, an assistant professor of chemical and molecular engineering at NC State and a co-author of the paper. “Alginates are used in wound dressings, so this material potentially could be used as a strengthened 3D-printed bandage or as a patch for wound healing or drug delivery.”

“These types of materials have the potential to be most useful in medical products, in food products as a thickening agent, or in soft robotics,” said Austin Williams, one of the paper’s first coauthors and a graduate student in Dr. Velev’s lab.

Future work will attempt to fine-tune this method of merging of homocomposite materials to advance 3D printing for biomedical applications or biomedical injection materials, Dr. Velev said.

Former NC State Ph.D. student Sangchul Roh is the paper’s other first coauthor. Coauthor Simeon Stoyanov from Wageningen University participated in the conception of the new material. The research is being funded by the National Science Foundation grants.

All rights reserved. Permission required to reprint articles in their entirety. Must include copyright statement and live hyperlinks. Contact editorial@algaeplanet.com. Algae Planet accepts unsolicited manuscripts for consideration, and takes no responsibility for the validity of claims made in submitted editorial.

Seagriculture USA 2024
AlgaeMetrics
Contact Phil Ganz

Subscribe

Breaking-News

  • June 21, 2024: The invasion of sargassum has put lives and livelihoods at risk — generating toxic gasses, smelly tap water, job losses, and much more. Anyone who has spent some time on one of South Florida’s beaches knows that they are easily in the firing line. That’s why the Miami-Dade Innovation Authority created a public innovation challenge to help combat the sargassum onslaught — and perhaps put it to productive use. READ MORE...
  • June 19, 2024: Scottish Sea Farms has joined a seaweed growing venture in a project that combines salmon and kelp farming on Loch Spelve in the Sound of Mull. The intention of the year-long pilot is to enrich and replenish the marine environment while minimizing any impact from farming activities. READ MORE...
  • June 17, 2024: The ALEHOOP project, funded by the Circular Bio-based Europe Joint Undertaking, has successfully demonstrated the feasibility of sustainable plant-based protein extraction. The project has developed pilot-scale biorefineries that recover low-cost dietary proteins from algae and plant-based biomass. READ MORE...
  • June 14, 2024: Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed microscopic robots, known as microrobots, capable of swimming through the lungs to deliver cancer-fighting medication directly to metastatic tumors. This approach has shown promise in mice, where it inhibited the growth and spread of tumors that had metastasized to the lungs, thereby boosting survival rates compared to control treatments. READ MORE...

Algae Europe 2024

A Beginner’s Guide