A new class of dual responsive self-healable hydrogels based on a core crosslinked ionic block copolymer micelle prepared via RAFT polymerization and Diels–Alder “click” chemistry†
Amphiphilic diblock copolymers of poly(furfuryl methacrylate) (PFMA) with cationic poly(2-(methacryloyloxy)ethyltrimethyl ammonium chloride) (PFMA-b-PMTAC) and anionic poly(sodium 4-vinylbenzenesulfonate) (PFMA-b-PSS) were prepared via reversible addition fragmentation chain-transfer (RAFT) polymerization by using PFMA as a macro-RAFT agent. The formation of the block copolymer was confirmed by FTIR and 1H NMR analyses. In water, the amphiphilic diblock copolymers, (PFMA-b-PMTAC) and (PFMA-b-PSS), formed micelles with PFMA in the core and the rest of the hydrophilic polymers like PMTAC and PSS in the corona. The PFMA core was crosslinked by using Diels–Alder (DA) “Click” chemistry in water at 60 °C where bismaleimide acted as a crosslinker. Afterwards, both the core crosslinked micelles were mixed at an almost equal charge ratio which was determined by zeta potential analysis to prepare the self-assembled hydrogel. The de-crosslinking of the hydrophobic PFMA core in the self-assembled hydrogel via rDA reaction took place at 165 °C as determined from DSC analysis. This hydrogel showed self-healing behavior using ionic interaction (in the presence of water) and DA chemistry (in the presence of heat).