Dually cross-linked single networks: structures and applications
Cross-linked polymers have attracted an immense attention over the years, however, there are many flaws of these systems, e.g. softness and brittleness; such materials possess non-adjustable properties and cannot recover from damage and thus are limited in their practical applications. Supramolecular chemistry offers a variety of dynamic interactions that when integrated into polymeric gels endow the systems with reversibility and responsiveness to external stimuli. A combination of different cross-links in a single gel could be the key to tackle these drawbacks, since covalent or chemical cross-linking serve to maintain the permanent shape of the material and to improve overall mechanical performance, whereas non-covalent cross-links impart dynamicity, reversibility, stimuli-responsiveness and often toughness to the material. In the present review we sought to give a comprehensive overview of the progress in design strategies of different types of dually cross-linked single gels made by researchers over the past decade as well as the successful implementations of these advances in many demanding fields where versatile multifunctional materials are required, such as tissue engineering, drug delivery, self-healing and adhesive systems, sensors as well as shape memory materials and actuators.