Hydrogel physical properties are tuned by altering synthesis conditions such as initial polymer concentration and polymer-cross-linker stoichiometric ratios. Traditionally, differences in hydrogel synthesis schemes, such as end-linked poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate hydrogels and cross-linked poly(vinyl alcohol) hydrogels, limit structural comparison between hydrogels. In this study, we use generalized synthesis variables for hydrogels that emphasize how changes in formulation affect the resulting network structure. We identify two independent linear correlations between these synthesis variables and swelling behavior. Analysis through recently updated swollen polymer network models suggests that synthesis-swelling correlations can be used to make a priori predictions of the stiffness and solute diffusivity characteristics of synthetic hydrogels. The same experiments and analyses performed on methacrylamide-modified gelatin hydrogels demonstrate that complex biopolymer structures disrupt the linear synthesis-swelling correlations. These studies provide insight into the control of hydrogel physical properties through structural design and can be used to implement and optimize biomedically relevant hydrogels.
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