Measurements of Temperature and Humidity Responsive Swelling of Thin Hydrogel Films by Interferometry in an Environmental Chamber

Katrin Unger, Marlene Anzengruber, Anna Maria Coclite*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Thin film thermo-responsive hydrogels have become a huge interest in applications such as smart drug-delivery systems or sensor/actuator technology. So far, mostly, the response of such hydrogels has been measured only by varying the temperature in a liquid environment, but studies of the response towards humidity and temperature are rare because of experimental limitations. Often the swelling measurements are performed on samples placed on a stage that can be heated/cooled, while vapors enter the permeation chamber at their own temperature. This thermal difference leads to some uncertainties on the exact relative humidity to which the sample is exposed to. In this study, we explored the possibility of performing swelling measurements under thermal equilibrium by placing the sample and an interferometer, as a detector, in an environmental chamber and therefore exposing the smart hydrogel to adjustable temperatures and relative humidity conditions while measuring the hydrogel’s thin film thickness changes. As a case study, we used thin films of the thermo-responsive hydrogel, poly N-vinylcaprolactam deposited by initiated chemical vapor deposition (iCVD). Similar thin films were previously characterized by in situ ellipsometry while the sample was heated on a stage and exposed to humid air produced at room temperature. The comparison between the two measurement methods showed that while measurements in the presence of thermal gradients are limited mostly to low humidity, measurements in thermal equilibrium are restricted only by the operation limits of the used environmental chamber.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3987
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • environmental parameters
  • hydrogel thickness
  • interferometry
  • measurement technique
  • multi-responsive hydrogel
  • poly(N vinyl caprolactam)
  • smart hydrogel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Polymers and Plastics

Fields of Expertise

  • Advanced Materials Science


  • NAWI Graz


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