By introducing hydrophilic polymers into silicone medical devices, highly beneficial biomedical properties can be realized. An established solution to introduce hydrophilic polymers is to form an interpenetrating polymer network (IPN) by performing the hydrogel synthesis in the presence of silicone swollen in supercritical carbon dioxide. The precise distribution of the two polymers is not known, and determining this is the goal of this study. Neutron scattering and microscopy were used to determine the distribution of the hydrophilic guest polymer. Atomic force microscopy revealed that the important length scale on the surface of these materials is 10–100 nm, and spin-echo small-angle neutron scattering (SESANS) on IPNs submerged in D2O revealed structures of the same scale within the interior and enabled quantification of their size. SESANS with hydration by D2O proved to be the only scattering technique that could determine the structure of the bulk of these types of materials, and it should be used as an important tool for characterizing polymer medical devices.
- Atomic force microscopy
- Interpenetrating polymer network
- Neutron scattering