Introductory chemistry students learn that oil and water repel each other. So do other hydrophobic substances, which carry no electric charge, and hydrophilic substances, which carry an electric charge that allows them to mix with water.
In a study reported in the July 1, 2013 Angewandte Chemie, a group of University of Illinois bioengineers have found a way to strongly adhere hydrogels to hydrophobic silicone substrates, an innovation that provides a valuable new tool for microscale biotechnology. The article reporting the work was highlighted by the editors as a “Hot Paper” in Soft Material Chemistry.
Microscale biotechnologies, including cell culture platforms and biochips, have important applications in genomics, tissue engineering, and many other areas of biology. Silicone polymers are often used as a component material in these technologies because of their advantageous properties: silicones are inert, elastic, biocompatible, and easy to work with.
One major drawback of this type of material in biological applications is that surfaces formed by silicones are extremely hydrophobic. These surfaces therefore prohibit easy flow of aqueous solutions and prevent the binding of some biomolecules, while promoting undesired binding of others. Chemical modifications or coatings can be used to make the surfaces hydrophilic, but the results produced by these treatments are temporary.
Read more at: Phys.org