Post-synthesis modification of slide-ring gels for thermal and mechanical reconfiguration†
Ring-sliding behavior in polyrotaxanes imbues gels, elastomers, and glasses with remarkable stress-dissipation and actuation properties. Since these properties can be modulated and tuned by structural parameters, many efforts have been devoted to developing synthetic protocols that define the structures and properties of slide-ring materials. We introduce post-synthetic modifications of slide-ring gels derived from unmodified α-cyclodextrin and poly(ethylene glycol) polyrotaxanes that enable (i) actuation and control of the thermo-responsive lower critical solution temperature (LCST) behavior of ring-modified slide-ring hydrogels, and (ii) chemically bonding separate gels into hybrid or shape-reconfigured macro-structures with a slide-ring adhesive solution. The mechanical properties of the post-modified gels have been characterized by shear rheology and uniaxial tensile tests, while the corresponding xerogels were characterized by wide-angle X-ray scattering. These demonstrations show that post-synthetic modification offers a practical solution for re-configuring the properties and shapes of slide-ring gels.