5 min read

6 Incredible Ways to Use Hydrogel

By Scott Chambers on Dec 8, 2022 4:17:57 PM

hydrogel uses

Before diving into this exceptional substance's many uses, let’s start with the basics: “What is hydrogel?” 

Hydrogel is a 3D network of hydrophilic polymer material that quickly absorbs and retains water (or other fluid). Incredibly versatile and environmentally sensitive, hydrogel is multi-functional across various industries.

Hydrogels have become popular recently because of their unique properties:

  • High water content
  • Softness/Low Irritation
  • Flexibility
  • Biocompatibility with most cells
  • Chemical behavior
  • Temperature sensitivity

A hydrogel’s structure is the reason for its recent success and holds such promise for future use. With viscoelastic characteristics, hydrogels keep their structure by chemical or physical cross-linking of individual hydrophilic polymer chains.

Hydrogels’ ability to contain/absorb water up to 99% of their volume makes them soft and flexible, like a contact lens, or highly absorbent, like a diaper. 

Characteristics depend on the hydrogel’s composition, which can be adapted depending on use. Hydrogels can be formulated to degrade and dissolve or maintain chemical stability as needed.

Flexible material converting is complex! Get your questions answered in this handy Q&A guide.

How Is Hydrogel Used?

The potential of hydrogels within so many various applications is incredible. So, naturally, scientists have been pushing the boundaries to uncover new uses. We’ve collected a few here, ending with hydrogel’s service in the converting world.


    Hydrogels appear in various everyday products: hair gel, toothpaste, and cosmetics. Some superabsorbent hydrogels, the ones with acrylate-based materials, absorb fluids in disposable diapers. Because hydrogels hold moisture away from the skin, they’re comfortable, prevent diaper rash, and promote skin health.

    The soft consistency, porosity, and high water content of hydrogels are very similar to natural living body tissue, making them good candidates for many medical applications. Typical uses include contact lenses, nerve guidance conduits, tissue bulking agents, and in nucleus replacement technology.

    When used as a wound dressing, hydrogels promote healing, provide moisture, and offer pain relief with their cool, high-water content. Hydrogel saturated onto a gauze pad can prevent the dressing from sticking to the wound surface.

    These dressings have elements embedded within the hydrogel: microelectronic biosensors, microprocessors, wireless communication radios, etc. So, these wound dressings not only protect wounds, they can, for instance, respond to changes in skin temperature by releasing medication as needed (more on drug delivery below). They can even light up if a prescription is running low.

    “Smart” wound dressings flex with the body, remaining in place as the patient bends a knee or elbow. Whatever elements or electronics are embedded remain functional in the dressing even when stretched.

    Within a stretchable hydrogel patch, inserted tubes or drilling holes create paths in the matrix. The high-porosity structure of hydrogels allows drugs to be loaded and released, making long-term transdermal drug delivery easier and allowing for a controlled drug delivery system (DDS).

    Other elements embedded in hydrogel — conductive titanium wires and semiconductor chips — allow drugs to be delivered on demand from small drug reservoirs. Another advantage of using hydrogels for drug delivery is their sustained release abilities, which result in a high drug concentration over a long period.

    Delivering a drug using hydrogels is one thing. The real advantage is the ability to monitor that delivery using an electronic interface within the hydrogel. There’s little concern when putting electronics in close contact with skin when soft, stretchable hydrogel conforms to the environment of the human body.

    Suppose the drug amount is low in the reservoirs. In that case, an LED light embedded in the hydrogel alerts the patient or caregivers even if the hydrogel is stretched around flexible body parts.

    Suppose you’re using hydrogels to deliver drugs precisely or test liquid samples. In that case, you might already know your hydrogel has intricate microchannels (ranging from submicron to a few millimeters) and circuits built into it. Top-end converters create microfluidic devices for organ-on-a-chip technology, test strips, or other tasks requiring the movement or analysis of small liquid molecules. Because hydrogels are non-toxic to most cells, it’s possible to mold feature designs and sizes onto them.

    Experienced converters approach hydrogels’ low strength and reluctance to stick on contact with innovative adhesive solutions. 

Transport fluids. Protect samples. Achieve accurate detection. Adhesive tape converting will help make it all happen.

Future Possibilities

Hydrogels already perform a wide range of functions. So, what’s next? Helping spinal cord regrowth? Organ generation? Tissue engineering scaffolds? And who knows what new microfluidic devices are in development?

Hydrogels' full potential has yet to be determined in everyday products or specialized medicine, and high-end converters like Strouse are ready to innovate solutions using tried and tested technology. 

If you’re feeling confident about Hydrogel, but you’re wondering how to get it processed, look no further. We’ve put together a guide on how 1-pass production can eliminate common converting problems:

Roll Good to Heat-Sealed Products eBook

Scott Chambers

Written by Scott Chambers

As the VP of Marketing for Strouse, Scott oversees the content creation team and drives demand to the sales team. Scott graduated from Coastal Carolina with a degree in Business Management. He then attended the University of Baltimore School of Law, earned his JD, and passed the bar in 2016. In addition to marketing and business development, Scott serves as Strouse's In House Counsel. Scott is currently earning an MBA from Indiana University.

Stay Current on Converting News and Insights

Subscribe to our Blog now!