Nanotechnology

MXene hydrogel based antibacterial epidermal sensor

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May 18, 2023

(Nanowerk HighlightsThe field of wearable electronics has seen a surge of interest in research and development of conductive hydrogels, largely due to their skin-like softness, structural resemblance to biological tissues, and 3D tunable conductive channels. These features make them well suited for a wide range of applications, such as wearable electronics, flexible energy storage systems and intelligent medical treatment.

In the last decade, there has been an important increase in the attention paid to conductive hydrogel-based epidermal sensors. This sensor has the ability to convert physiological activity signals into detectable electronic signals, which is a very useful feature for applications in flexible electronic skins, human-machine interfaces and medical diagnosis.

However, the applicability of these sensors in practical applications is limited by certain factors. These include its weak mechanical strength, low electrical conductivity and substandard sensing performance. This limitation limits the sensor’s ability to ultrasensitively monitor small electrophysiological signals such as electromyogram (EMG) signals and electrocardiogram (ECG) signals, which are critical for rehabilitation training and the diagnosis of cardiovascular and muscle-related diseases.

MXenes, 2D conductive transition metal carbides and carbonitrides, have shown great promise in overcoming this limitation. The negatively charged hydrophilic surface, large specific surface area and high electrical conductivity make it an excellent candidate for improving the mechanical properties, electrical conductivity and sensing performance of conductive hydrogel epidermal sensors.

Consequently, the need to develop MXene hydrogel-based epidermal sensors is urgent, especially in monitoring human movement and small electrophysiological signals, with potential applications in rehabilitation training and diagnosis of cardiovascular and muscle related diseases. Scheme of preparation of curable, injectable and antibacterial MXene hydrogel Scheme of preparation of curable, injectable and antibacterial MXene hydrogel. (Reprinted with permission by Wiley-VCH Verlag)

Recent advances in this field have seen the development of various conductive hydrogel-based flexible epidermal sensors for human health monitoring. However, they lack the ability to provide efficient therapeutic capabilities, hindering their application in diagnostic healthcare sensing and timely therapy. One area of ​​interest is wound care, as wounds can greatly increase the risk of infection, resulting in poor wound condition, prolonged healing time, and in severe cases, death.

Functional hydrogel based wound dressings offer a simple yet effective approach to wound care. Multifunctional hydrogel, featuring self-healing ability, strong injectability and excellent antibacterial activity, can be directly injected into the wound site, providing protection against further infection and promoting efficient antibacterial and accelerated wound repair.

Research published in Advanced Functional Materials (“Alexible and Accelerated Antibacterial MXene-Based Epidermic Sensor for Intelligent Wearable Human-Machine Interaction”) demonstrated significant advances in this area with the fabrication of curable, injectable and antibacterial MXene hydrogels.

This hydrogel incorporates a network of MXene nanosheets (AgNPs/MXene) coated with antibacterial silver nanoparticles onto a polymeric network of guar gum (GG) and phenylboronic acid grafted sodium alginate (Alg-PBA). The prepared MXene hydrogel exhibits enhanced mechanical strength, increased electrical conductivity and strong antibacterial ability. MXene hydrogel applications in human health monitoring and wound therapy MXene hydrogel applications in human health monitoring and wound therapy. (Reprinted with permission by Wiley-VCH Verlag)

MXene hydrogel can be used as a multifunctional epidermal sensor that can monitor large human activities and small electrophysiological signals. It offers clinically significant information for rehabilitation training and cardiovascular and muscle related diseases.

The hydrogel’s self-healing ability stems from the supramolecular interactions between the AgNPs/MXene, GG, and Alg-PBA nanosheets, and the dynamic cross-linkages between the GG hydroxyl groups and the Alg-PBA phenylboronic acid groups. The hydrogel also has strong injectability and good cytocompatibility. Its outstanding antibacterial properties mainly come from the AgNPs coated on the MXene nanosheets.

Most impressively, this MXene hydrogel can be directly injected into the wound site for further antibacterial treatment and wound repair, accelerating wound healing effectively. This advancement opens up new possibilities in the fabrication of flexible conductive hydrogel-based epidermal sensors that integrate high-performance sensing capabilities for potential diagnosis and treatment.

This development has tremendous potential in wearable electronics, health diagnosis, and intelligent medical treatment, marking a significant step forward in the field of wearable human-machine interaction.


Michael Berger
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– Michael is the author of three books by the Royal Society of Chemistry:
Nano-Society: Pushing the Boundaries of Technology,
Nanotechnology: A Small Future And
Nanoengineering: Skills and Tools for Making Technology Invisible
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