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Gels Obtained by Colloidal Self-Assembly of Amphiphilic Molecules

Malo de Molina, Paula; Gradzielski, Michael

Gelation in water-based systems can be achieved in many different ways. This review focusses on ways that are based on self-assembly, i.e., a bottom-up approach. Self-assembly naturally requires amphiphilic molecules and accordingly the systems described here are based on surfactants and to some extent also on amphiphilic copolymers. In this review we are interested in cases of low and moderate concentrations of amphiphilic material employed to form hydrogels. Self-assembly allows for various approaches to achieve gelation. One of them is via increasing the effective volume fraction by encapsulating solvent, as in vesicles. Vesicles can be constructed in various morphologies and the different cases are discussed here. However, also the formation of very elongated worm-like micelles can lead to gelation, provided the structural relaxation times of these systems is long enough. Alternatively, one may employ amphiphilic copolymers of hydrophobically modified water soluble polymers that allow for network formation in solution by self-assembly due to having several hydrophobic modifications per polymer. Finally, one may combine such polymers with surfactant self-assemblies and thereby produce interconnected hybrid network systems with corresponding gel-like properties. As seen here there is a number of conceptually different approaches to achieve gelation by self-assembly and they may even become combined for further variation of the properties. These different approaches are described in this review to yield a comprehensive overview regarding the options for achieving gel formation by self-assembly.
Published in: Gels, 10.3390/gels3030030, MDPI