A novel biocompatible double network hydrogel consisting of konjac glucomannan with high mechanical strength and ability to be freely shaped†
A novel physically linked double-network (DN) hydrogel based on natural polymer konjac glucomannan (KGM) and synthetic polymer polyacrylamide (PAAm) has been successfully developed. Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) was used as a macro-crosslinker to prepare the PVA–KGM first network hydrogel by a cycle freezing and thawing method for the first time. Subsequent introduction of a secondary PAAm network resulted in super-tough DN hydrogels. The resulting PVA–KGM/PAAm DN hydrogels exhibited unique ability to be freely shaped, cell adhesion properties and excellent mechanical properties, which do not fracture upon loading up to 65 MPa and a strain above 0.98. The mechanical strength and microstructure of the DN hydrogels were investigated as functions of acrylamide (AAm) content and freezing and thawing times. A unique embedded micro-network structure was observed in the PVA–KGM/PAAm DN gels and accounted for the significant improvement in toughness. The fracture mechanism is discussed based on the yielding behaviour of these physically linked hydrogels.