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Micellar-Incorporated Hydrogels with Highly Tough, Mechanoresponsive, and Self-Recovery Properties for Strain-Induced Color Sensors

Abstract

Tough, mechanoresponsive hydrogels have broad and significant impacts on fundamental research and practical applications, but have proved to extremely challenging. The poor solubility of mechanophores makes them difficult to be integrated into a highly hydrophilic network of hydrogels. In this work, we synthesized dimethylacrylate-functionalized spiropyran (SP) mechanophores and used them as crosslinkers to copolymerize with hydrophobic methyl acrylate (MA) monomers and hydrophilic N-hydroxyethyl acrylamide (AM) monomers in the presence of surfactant polysorbate 80 (TWEEEN 80) micelles, forming poly(AM-co-MA/SP) hydrogels. Mechanical properties of as-prepared and swollen poly(AM-co-MA/SP) hydrogels strongly depended on network components (AM, MA, and SP concentrations). Thus, the optimal hydrogels can achieve excellent mechanical properties (tensile stress of 1.1 MPa, tensile strain of 6 mm/mm, elastic modulus of 1.1 MPa, and tearing energy of 3200 kJ/m2). Due to multi-stimuli-responses of SP crosslinkers, the hydrogels exhibited the reversible changes in color and mechanical properties between the force-, heat-, and UV light-induced deformation state and the white light-induced recovery state. Based on their fast, reversible, force-induced color change behavior, we further design a conceptual hydrogel strain sensor to monitor color change under the stretching and relaxing processes in multiple cycles. This work demonstrates that the presence of dynamically reversible SP crosslinkers and micellar structures are the keys to greatly enhance both mechanical and color recoverable properties of poly(AM-co-MA/SP) hydrogels, which could serve as promising smart materials for a variety of applications of soft robots, electronic skins, and strain/motion/damage sensors.

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Publication details

The article was received on 06 Aug 2018, accepted on 14 Sep 2018 and first published on 14 Sep 2018


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C8TC03914C
Citation: J. Mater. Chem. C, 2018, Accepted Manuscript
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    Micellar-Incorporated Hydrogels with Highly Tough, Mechanoresponsive, and Self-Recovery Properties for Strain-Induced Color Sensors

    Y. Zhang, B. Ren, F. Yang, Y. Cai, H. Chen, T. Wang, Z. Feng, J. Tang, J. Xu and J. Zheng, J. Mater. Chem. C, 2018, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/C8TC03914C

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