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A one-step aqueous route to prepare polyacrylonitrile-based hydrogels with excellent ionic conductivity and extreme low temperature tolerance

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Abstract

Generally, polyacrylonitrile (PAN)-based hydrogels possessing excellent mechanical properties are prepared by water replacement after the copolymerization of acrylonitrile (AN) and other hydrophilic monomers in their good organic solvents. However, PAN-based hydrogels synthesized by the conventional strategy not only cause huge environmental problems but also inevitably lose their pristine mechanical properties at subzero temperatures, which severely limits their real-world applications. Here, we designed a novel PAN-based hydrogel under an aqueous system containing ZnCl2 salts without any toxic organic solvents. Based on the salt used in the polymerization strategy, P(AN-co-AMPS) hydrogels (AAHs) can be realized by direct co-polymerization of AN and 2-acrylamido-2-methylpropane sulfonic acid (AMPS) in water in the presence of ZnCl2 salts. ZnCl2 serves three predominant functions: dissolving AN in water to conduct polymerization, inhibiting the formation of ice crystals to realize freeze-tolerance under extremely cold conditions and introducing free ions to promote the conductivity of the hydrogel. Consequently, the AAH simultaneously possesses long-term stability, excellent anti-freezing properties and a high conductivity of 1.16 S m−1 even at −50 °C. Moreover, we demonstrated the AAH as a wearable strain sensor, which features outstanding performance for monitoring different daily human activities in real time. This one-step aqueous-based approach for preparing anti-freezing and conductive PAN-based hydrogels may open a new avenue for the reliable construction of high-performance flexible sensors under environmentally friendly conditions.

Graphical abstract: A one-step aqueous route to prepare polyacrylonitrile-based hydrogels with excellent ionic conductivity and extreme low temperature tolerance

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Supplementary files

Article information


Submitted
20 Aug 2020
Accepted
16 Sep 2020
First published
19 Sep 2020

J. Mater. Chem. A, 2020, Advance Article
Article type
Paper

A one-step aqueous route to prepare polyacrylonitrile-based hydrogels with excellent ionic conductivity and extreme low temperature tolerance

C. Jiang, T. Zhu, H. Liu, G. Yang, Z. He, M. Wang, M. Ji, G. Cong, J. Yu, C. Zhu and J. Xu, J. Mater. Chem. A, 2020, Advance Article , DOI: 10.1039/D0TA08177A

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