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Issue 37, 2018
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Anisotropic contraction of fiber-reinforced hydrogels

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Hydrogels reinforced by fibers can undergo remarkable anisotropic contraction triggered by external stimuli, which has a broad appeal for various applications. However, little is known about how to optimize the contraction anisotropy by tuning the microstructures of fiber-reinforced hydrogels. Here, we investigate the underlying mechanisms controlling the anisotropic contraction of fiber-reinforced hydrogels. Using a simplified model incorporating the directional constraint of the fibers, we show that the contraction anisotropy can be substantially enhanced if the hydrogel is prestretched along the fiber direction. We further explicitly model fibers as periodically distributed cylindrical rods in the finite element simulations, and find that the contraction anisotropy can be maximized by varying the transverse fiber–fiber distance; this maximum anisotropy can be improved by reducing the longitudinal fiber–fiber distance and increasing the fiber length. Our study provides insights into designing novel fiber-reinforced hydrogels, suggesting possible applications in soft robotics, tissue engineering and beyond.

Graphical abstract: Anisotropic contraction of fiber-reinforced hydrogels

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Article information

19 Jun 2018
03 Sep 2018
First published
04 Sep 2018

Soft Matter, 2018,14, 7731-7739
Article type
Author version available

Anisotropic contraction of fiber-reinforced hydrogels

S. Liu, S. I. Stupp and M. Olvera de la Cruz, Soft Matter, 2018, 14, 7731
DOI: 10.1039/C8SM01251B

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