Supramolecular multicompartment gels formed by ABC graft copolymers: high toughness and recovery properties†
We conceptually design multicompartment gels with supramolecular characteristics by taking advantage of amphiphilic ABC graft copolymers. The ABC graft copolymers contain a solvophilic A backbone and solvophobic B and C grafts, where the C grafts interact with each other via hydrogen bonds. The mechanical properties of supramolecular multicompartment gels under uniaxial tension are studied by coupling dissipative particle dynamics simulations with the nonequilibrium deformation technique. The results show that the supramolecular multicompartment gels exhibit high toughness and recovery properties, while their stiffness is maintained. Due to the physical origin, the superior mechanical properties of supramolecular gels have a tight relation with the structural relaxation of grafts and the association–disassociation dynamics of hydrogen bonds. In addition, the toughness of the multicompartment gels can be further tuned by adjusting the strength and directivity of the hydrogen bonds. The present work unveils the physical origin of the distinct mechanical properties of supramolecular gels, which may provide useful guidance for designing functional gels with superior toughness.