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Design of Stiff, Tough and Stretchy Hydrogel Composites via Nanoscale Hybrid Crosslinking and Macroscale Fiber Reinforcement

linst06's picture

Shaoting Lin, Changyong Cao, Qiming Wang, Mark Gonzalez, John E. Dolbow, Xuanhe Zhao


Hydrogels’ applications are usually limited by their weak mechanical properties. Despite recent great progress in developing tough hydrogels, it is still challenging to achieve high values of stretchabiliy, toughness and modulus all together in synthetic hydrogels. Here we report a new paradigm for the design of stiff, tough and stretchy hydrogels by integrating nanoscale hybrid crosslinking and macroscale fiber reinforcement. The resultant hydrogel, despite containing 80% water, can achieve an extremely high toughness (>30 kJm-2), high modulus (>6 MPa), and can be stretched over 2.8 times even in the presence of large structural defects – an unprecedented set of mechanical properties of synthetic hydrogels. 


Soft Matter, DOI: 10.1039/c4sm01039f, Supplementary Information

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Yuhang Hu's picture

Very interesting work. Incorporating multiple energy-dissiplation mechanism into a single material system to realize extreme toughness in hydrogel. Have you tried other patterns besides square pattern shown in the paper? What is the bonding between fiber and hydrogel?



linst06's picture

Dear Yuhang,

Thank you very much for your interest in the work and the excellent questions. 

To illustrate the idea, we only tried square meshes in this paper. However, since the procedure for printing different meshes are the same but guided by different CAD files, we expect the 3D printer can construct various types of meshes for future studies. In particular, since the 3D printer is commercially available (Makerbot, ~$3000), we encourage interested groups to try it.

The bonding between gels and fiber meshes are weak in the current composite. In the theory to predict the fracture energy (Eq. 5 and 6), we actually neglected the adhesion between gel and fiber. Designing the interfaces between gels and fibers is also an important aspect for future study. Thanks, Shaoting

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