SYNTHESIS OF CHITOSAN AND CARBOXYMETHYL CHITOSAN HYDROGELS BY ELECTRON BEAM IRRADIATION
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Solutions of chitosan (CS) and carboxymethyl chitosan (CMCS) were subjected to irradiation by electron beam in presence of a crosslinking agent (poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate - PEGDA) in order to produce carboxymethyl chitosan- and chitosan-based hydrogels. PEGDA macromonomer itself undergoes simultaneous polymerization and crosslinking either in neutral water or in acidic medium. Acidic solutions of chitosan of 0.5, 1 and 2% can be effectively crosslinked with PEGDA to form a gel. Although CMCS undergoes radiation-initiated crosslinking only at high concentration in water (over 10%), the presence of PEGDA in solution facilitated hydrogel formation even at lower concentration of CMCS. Formation of CS and CMCS hydrogels required irradiation doses lower than those needed for sterilization, i.e. 25 kGy, in some cases even as low as 200 Gy. Sol-gel analysis revealed relatively high gel fraction of obtained hydrogels, up to 80%, and good swelling ability. Both parameters can be easily controlled by composition of the initial solution and irradiation dose. Possible mechanisms of crosslinking reactions were proposed, involving addition of the polysaccharide macroradicals to a terminal double bond of PEGDA.
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