Toughening hydrogels through force-triggered chemical reactions that lengthen polymer strands

Zi Wang, Xujun Zheng, Tetsu Ouchi, Tatiana B. Kouznetsova, Haley K. Beech, Sarah Av-Ron, Takahiro Matsuda, Brandon H. Bowser, Shu Wang, Jeremiah A. Johnson*, Julia A. Kalow, Bradley D. Olsen, Jian Ping Gong, Michael Rubinstein, Stephen L. Craig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The utility and lifetime of materials made from polymer networks, including hydrogels, depend on their capacity to stretch and resist tearing. In gels and elastomers, those mechanical properties are often limited by the covalent chemical structure of the polymer strands between cross-links, which is typically fixed during the material synthesis. We report polymer networks in which the constituent strands lengthen through force-coupled reactions that are triggered as the strands reach their nominal breaking point. In comparison with networks made from analogous control strands, reactive strand extensions of up to 40% lead to hydrogels that stretch 40 to 50% further and exhibit tear energies that are twice as large. The enhancements are synergistic with those provided by double-network architectures and complement other existing toughening strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193
Number of pages1
Issue number6564
StatePublished - Oct 8 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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