Mussel-inspired hydrogels: from design principles to promising applications
Mussel-inspired chemistry, owing to its unique and versatile functions to manipulate dynamic molecular-scale interactions, has emerged as a powerful tool for the rational design and synthesis of new hydrogels. In particular, possessing a myriad of unique advantages that are otherwise impossible by conventional counterparts, mussel-inspired hydrogels have been widely explored in numerous fields such as biomedical engineering, soft electronics and actuators, and wearable sensors. Despite great excitement and vigor, a comprehensive and timely review on this emerging topic is missing. In this review, we discuss (1) the fundamental interaction mechanisms underpinning the spectacular wet adhesion in natural mussels and mussel-inspired materials; (2) the key routes to engineering hydrogels by leveraging on the interactions of mussel-inspired building blocks; (3) the emerging applications of mussel-inspired hydrogels, especially in the areas of flexible electronics and biomedical engineering; (4) the future perspectives and unsolved challenges of this multidisciplinary field. We envision that this review will provide an insightful perspective to stimulate new thinking and innovation in the development of next-generation hydrogels and beyond.