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Topological Adhesion of Wet Materials

Ruobing Bai's picture

Jiawei Yang, Ruobing Bai, Zhigang Suo


Achieving strong adhesion between wet materials (i.e., tissues and hydrogels) is challenging. Existing adhesives are weak, toxic, incompatible with wet and soft surfaces, or restricted to specific functional groups from the wet materials. The approach reported here uses biocompatible polymer chains to achieve strong adhesion and retain softness, but requires no functional groups from the wet materials. In response to a trigger, the polymer chains form a network, in topological entanglement with the two polymer networks of the wet materials, stitching them together like a suture at the molecular scale. To illustrate topological adhesion, pH is used as a trigger. The stitching polymers are soluble in water in one pH range but form a polymer network in another pH range. Several stitching polymers are selected to create strong adhesion between hydrogels in full range of pH, as well as between hydrogels and various porcine tissues (liver, heart, artery, skin, and stomach). The adhesion energy above 1000 J m−2 is achieved when the stitching polymer network elicits the hysteresis in the wet materials. The molecular suture can be designed to be permanent, transient, or removable on‐demand. The topological adhesion may open many opportunities in complex and diverse environments.



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