Bioinspired hydrogels for filtration

phd proposal 2021-2024

Sciences et Ingénierie de la Matière Molle (SIMM),
UMR 7615
Adresse : ESPCI – 10 rue Vauquelin – 75231 Paris Cedex 05
Directeur de l’Unité : Etienne Barthel
Etablissement de rattachement : ESPCI/Sorbonne Université/CNRS
Encadrement : Cécile Monteux et Bruno Bresson
Contact : cecile.monteux (arobase) et Bruno.bresson (arobase)

In the human body, some biological barriers, such as the glomerular barrier of the kidney, are made up of a network of biopolymers, which filters proteins arriving in the urine. These hydrogels are very permeable to water and yet very effective at blocking particles of nanometric size. The filtration process depends in part on the mesh size of the polymer network, which guarantees the steric exclusion of certain particles (see Figure). It also depends on the charge and the hydrophobicity of the chains forming the network, which allows it to interact selectively with certain molecules depending on their physicochemical nature [1]. A bio-inspired approach could allow the design of new hydrogels for the treatment of water or the separation of molecules of pharmaceutical interest.

The goal of this project is to develop hydrogels with variable pore size, hydrophobicity and charge in order to control their permeability and selectivity to various particles or molecules.

To develop these hydrogels, we propose a very simple system based on the UV crosslinking of PEGDA (PEG-diacrylate) in water, a hydrogel that is very easy to prepare and very mechanically resistant [2]. To modulate the permeability to water and the selectivity of these hydrogels, we propose to crosslink the PEGDA solutions presence of free chains of polymers of different nature in order to obtain a phase micro-separation under crosslinking, with zones rich in free chains, which are more permeable (see Figure and [3]).

We will vary the hydrophobicity and the charge of the free polymer chains, in order to vary the structure of the hydrogels and their affinity / selectivity for molecules of different physicochemical nature. In a second step, we will incorporate these hydrogels in a simple microfluidic devices which will make it possible to measure the permeability of the gels and to carry out model filtration experiments [4]. Once this platform has been set up, there are many perspectives, depending on the candidate tastes, from the design of hydrogels with permeability that can be stimulated by an electric field, the separation of molecules of pharmaceutical interest to the design of autonomous kidney-inspired filtration devices based on gradients of osmotic pressure.

Financement : ED 397

Figure left. Filtration by hydrogels [1] right -PEG/PEGDA hydrogels developed by Doyle et al [3]

1. 1. Witten, J. & Ribbeck, K. The particle in the spider’s web: transport through biological hydrogels. Nanoscale 9, 8080–8095 (2017).
2. 2. Nguyen, K. T. & West, J. L. Photopolymerizable hydrogels for tissue engineering applications. Biomaterials 23, 4307–4314 (2002).
3. Choi et al. (2012), Multiplexed detection of mRNA using porosity-tuned hydrogel particles, Analytical chemistry, 84, 9370
4. Decock, J., Schlenk, M. & Salmon, J.-B. In situ photo-patterning of pressure-resistant hydrogel membranes with controlled permeabilities in PEGDA microfluidic channels. Lab. Chip 18, 1075–1083 (2018).

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Practical information

Sciences et Ingénierie de la Matière Molle

Soft Matter Enginering and Science Laboratory - UMR 7615

10 rue Vauquelin
75231 PARIS CEDEX 05

  • Chair : E. Barthel
  • Vice Chairs : J.B. d’Espinose & G. Ducouret
  • Administration : F. Decuq, M.-T. Mendy & M. Hirano-Courcot
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