Tough supramolecular hydrogel based on strong hydrophobic interactions in a multiblock segmented copolymer

M. Mihajlovic, M. Staropoli, M.-S. Appavou, H.M. Wyss, W. Pyckhout-Hintzen, R.P. Sijbesma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

65 Citations (Scopus)
103 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

We report the preparation and structural and mechanical characterization of a tough supramolecular hydrogel, based exclusively on hydrophobic association. The system consists of a multiblock, segmented copolymer of hydrophilic poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) and hydrophobic dimer fatty acid (DFA) building blocks. A series of copolymers containing 2K, 4K, and 8K PEG were prepared. Upon swelling in water, a network is formed by self-assembly of hydrophobic DFA units in micellar domains, which act as stable physical cross-link points.
The resulting hydrogels are noneroding and contain 75−92 wt % of water at swelling equilibrium. Small-angle neutron scattering (SANS) measurements showed that the aggregation number of micelles ranges from 2 × 102 to 6 × 102 DFA units, increasing with PEG molecular weight. Mechanical characterization indicated that the hydrogel containing PEG 2000 is mechanically very stable and tough, possessing a tensile toughness of 4.12 MJ/m3. The high toughness, processability, and ease of preparation make these hydrogels very attractive for applications where mechanical stability and load bearing features of soft materials are required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3333-3346
Number of pages14
JournalMacromolecules
Volume50
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2017

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