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Enhanced Electroactivity, Mechanical Properties, and Printability through the Addition of Graphene Oxide to Photo-Cross-linkable Gelatin Methacryloyl Hydrogel

Journal Article


Abstract


  • The human tissues most sensitive to electrical activity such as neural and muscle tissues are relatively soft, and yet traditional conductive materials used to interface with them are typically stiffer by many orders of magnitude. Overcoming this mismatch, by creating both very soft and electroactive materials, is a major challenge in bioelectronics and biomaterials science. One strategy is to imbue soft materials, such as hydrogels, with electroactive properties by adding small amounts of highly conductive nanomaterials. However, electroactive hydrogels reported to date have required relatively large volume fractions (>1%) of added nanomaterial, have shown only modest electroactivity, and have not been processable via additive manufacturing to create 3D architectures. Here, we describe the development and characterization of improved biocompatible photo-cross-linkable soft hybrid electroactive hydrogels based on gelatin methacryloyol (GelMA) and large area graphene oxide (GO) flakes, which resolve each of these three limitations. The addition of very small amounts (less than a 0.07% volume fraction) of GO to a 5% w/v GelMA hydrogel resulted in a dramatic (∼35-fold) decrease in the impedance at 1 Hz compared with GelMA alone. The GelMA/GO coated indium tin oxide (ITO) electrode also showed a considerable reduction in the impedance at 1 kHz (down to 170 ω compared with 340 ω for the GelMA-coated ITO), while charge injection capacity increased more than 6-fold. We attribute this enhanced electroactivity to the increased electroactive surface area contributed by the GO. Despite this dramatic change in electroactivity, the GelMA/GO composite hydrogels' mechanical properties were only moderately affected. Mechanical properties increased by ∼2-fold, and therefore, the hydrogels' desired softness of <4 kPa was retained. Also, we demonstrate how light attenuation through the gel can be used to create a stiffness gradient with the exposed surface of the gel having an elastic modulus of <1.5 kPa. GO addition also enhanced the rheological properties of the GelMA composites, thus facilitating 3D extrusion printing. GelMA/GO enhanced filament formation as well as improved printability and the shape fidelity/integrity of 3D printed structures compared with GelMA alone. Additionally, the GelMA/GO 3D printed structures presented a higher electroactive behavior than nonprinted samples containing the same GelMA/GO amount, which can be attributed to the higher electroactive surface area of 3D printed structures. These findings provide new rational choices of electroactive hydrogel (EAH) compositions with broad potential applications in bioelectronics, tissue engineering, and drug delivery.

Publication Date


  • 2021

Citation


  • Xavier Mendes, A., Moraes Silva, S., O'Connell, C. D., Duchi, S., Quigley, A. F., Kapsa, R. M. I., & Moulton, S. E. (2021). Enhanced Electroactivity, Mechanical Properties, and Printability through the Addition of Graphene Oxide to Photo-Cross-linkable Gelatin Methacryloyl Hydrogel. ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering, 7(6), 2279-2295. doi:10.1021/acsbiomaterials.0c01734

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85106348203

Start Page


  • 2279

End Page


  • 2295

Volume


  • 7

Issue


  • 6

Abstract


  • The human tissues most sensitive to electrical activity such as neural and muscle tissues are relatively soft, and yet traditional conductive materials used to interface with them are typically stiffer by many orders of magnitude. Overcoming this mismatch, by creating both very soft and electroactive materials, is a major challenge in bioelectronics and biomaterials science. One strategy is to imbue soft materials, such as hydrogels, with electroactive properties by adding small amounts of highly conductive nanomaterials. However, electroactive hydrogels reported to date have required relatively large volume fractions (>1%) of added nanomaterial, have shown only modest electroactivity, and have not been processable via additive manufacturing to create 3D architectures. Here, we describe the development and characterization of improved biocompatible photo-cross-linkable soft hybrid electroactive hydrogels based on gelatin methacryloyol (GelMA) and large area graphene oxide (GO) flakes, which resolve each of these three limitations. The addition of very small amounts (less than a 0.07% volume fraction) of GO to a 5% w/v GelMA hydrogel resulted in a dramatic (∼35-fold) decrease in the impedance at 1 Hz compared with GelMA alone. The GelMA/GO coated indium tin oxide (ITO) electrode also showed a considerable reduction in the impedance at 1 kHz (down to 170 ω compared with 340 ω for the GelMA-coated ITO), while charge injection capacity increased more than 6-fold. We attribute this enhanced electroactivity to the increased electroactive surface area contributed by the GO. Despite this dramatic change in electroactivity, the GelMA/GO composite hydrogels' mechanical properties were only moderately affected. Mechanical properties increased by ∼2-fold, and therefore, the hydrogels' desired softness of <4 kPa was retained. Also, we demonstrate how light attenuation through the gel can be used to create a stiffness gradient with the exposed surface of the gel having an elastic modulus of <1.5 kPa. GO addition also enhanced the rheological properties of the GelMA composites, thus facilitating 3D extrusion printing. GelMA/GO enhanced filament formation as well as improved printability and the shape fidelity/integrity of 3D printed structures compared with GelMA alone. Additionally, the GelMA/GO 3D printed structures presented a higher electroactive behavior than nonprinted samples containing the same GelMA/GO amount, which can be attributed to the higher electroactive surface area of 3D printed structures. These findings provide new rational choices of electroactive hydrogel (EAH) compositions with broad potential applications in bioelectronics, tissue engineering, and drug delivery.

Publication Date


  • 2021

Citation


  • Xavier Mendes, A., Moraes Silva, S., O'Connell, C. D., Duchi, S., Quigley, A. F., Kapsa, R. M. I., & Moulton, S. E. (2021). Enhanced Electroactivity, Mechanical Properties, and Printability through the Addition of Graphene Oxide to Photo-Cross-linkable Gelatin Methacryloyl Hydrogel. ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering, 7(6), 2279-2295. doi:10.1021/acsbiomaterials.0c01734

Scopus Eid


  • 2-s2.0-85106348203

Start Page


  • 2279

End Page


  • 2295

Volume


  • 7

Issue


  • 6