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Towards superior biopolymer gels by enabling interpenetrating network structures: A review on types, applications, and gelation strategies

Lookup NU author(s): Professor David XieORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Gels derived from single networks of natural polymers (biopolymers) typically exhibit limited physical properties and thus have seen constrained applications in areas like food and medicine. In contrast, gels founded on a synergy of multiple biopolymers, specifically polysaccharides and proteins, with intricate interpenetrating polymer network (IPN) structures, represent a promising avenue for the creation of novel gel materials with significantly enhanced properties and combined advantages. This review begins with the scrutiny of newly devised IPN gels formed through a medley of polysaccharides and/or proteins, alongside an introduction of their practical applications in the realm of food, medicine, and environmentally friendly solutions. Finally, based on the fact that the IPN gelation process and mechanism are driven by different inducing factors entwined with a diverse amalgamation of polysaccharides and proteins, our survey underscores the potency of physical, chemical, and enzymatic triggers in orchestrating the construction of crosslinked networks within these biomacromolecules. In these mixed systems, each specific inducer aligns with distinct polysaccharides and proteins, culminating in the generation of semi-IPN or fully-IPN gels through the intricate interpenetration between single networks and polymer chains or between two networks, respectively. The resultant IPN gels stand as paragons of excellence, characterized by their homogeneity, dense network structures, superior textural properties (e.g., hardness, elasticity, adhesion, cohesion, and chewability), outstanding water-holding capacity, and heightened thermal stability, along with guaranteed biosafety (e.g., nontoxicity and biocompatibility) and biodegradability. Therefore, a judicious selection of polymer combinations allows for the development of IPN gels with customized functional properties, adept at meeting precise application requirements.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hou X, Lin L, Li K, Jiang F, Qiao D, Zhang B, Xie F

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Advances in Colloid and Interface Science

Year: 2024

Volume: 325

Print publication date: 01/03/2024

Online publication date: 15/02/2024

Acceptance date: 13/02/2024

Date deposited: 23/02/2024

ISSN (print): 0001-8686

ISSN (electronic): 1873-3727

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.cis.2024.103113


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Funder referenceFunder name
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) [grant number EP/V002236/2
Key R & D Project of Hubei Province (2022BBA004)
National Natural Science Foundation of China (32172240)