Study of nanoscale structures in hydrated biomaterials using small-angle neutron scattering

A. Luk, N. S. Murthy, W. Wang, R. Rojas, J. Kohn

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8 Scopus citations


Distribution of water in three classes of biomedically relevant and degradable polymers was investigated using small-angle neutron scattering. In semicrystalline polymers, such as poly(lactic acid) and poly(glycolic acid), water was found to diffuse preferentially into the non-crystalline regions. In amorphous polymers, such as poly(d,l-lactic acid) and poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid), the scattering after 7 days of incubation was attributed to water in microvoids that form following the hydrolytic degradation of the polymer. In amorphous copolymers containing hydrophobic segments (desaminotyrosyl-tyrosine ethyl ester) and hydrophilic blocks (poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)), a sequence of distinct regimes of hydration were observed: homogeneous distribution (∼10 length scales) at <13 wt.% PEG (∼1 water per EG), clusters of hydrated domains (∼50 Å radius) separated at 24 wt.% PEG (1-2 water per EG), uniformly distributed hydrated domains at 41 wt.% PEG (∼4 water per EG) and phase inversion at >50 wt.% PEG (>6 water per EG). Increasing the PEG content increased the number of these domains with only a small decrease in distance between the domains. These discrete domains appeared to coalesce to form submicron droplets at ∼60°C, above the melting temperature of crystalline PEG. The significance of such observations on the evolution of micrometer-size channels that form during hydrolytic erosion is discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1459-1468
Number of pages10
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Molecular Biology


  • Biodegradation
  • Hydrated PEG domains
  • Hydration
  • Neutron scattering
  • PEG-containing copolymers


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