In gels and elastomers, the role of entanglements on deformation has been studied, but their effects on fracture, fatigue, and friction are less well understood. In this study, we synthesized polymers in which entanglements greatly outnumber cross-links. The dense entanglements enable transmission of tension in a polymer chain along its length and to many other chains. The sparse cross-links prevent the polymer chains from disentangling. These polymers have high toughness, strength, and fatigue resistance. After submersion in water, the polymers swell to equilibrium, and the resulting hydrogels have low hysteresis, low friction, and high wear resistance.
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