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Japan Develops Ultra-high Strength Hydrogel Or Will Benefit The Medical Industry

The hydrogel is a structure in which a polymer linked together in a mesh shape contains a large amount of water, has a high bioaffinity, and is expected as a medical material. However, previous hydrogels were very fragile and their practical use was limited to contact lenses. At present, hydrogels containing a large amount of moisture but having high strength are being developed all over the world, and topological gels, nanocomposite gels, double network gels, polyampholyte gels, and the like have been developed.

This time, by adding a second component, polyacrylamide, to a hydrogel made of a triblock copolymer, a new type of high-strength double network gel containing a large amount of water but having high strength was successfully produced. According to reports, the strength of this gel is higher than the four high-strength gels mentioned above.

The triblock copolymer is a band-like molecule composed of three components and has a hydrophobic-hydrophilic-hydrophobic structure. The copolymer was placed in water and the hydrophobic sites at both ends formed a mesh structure to obtain a massive hydrogel. By introducing polyacrylamide into the interior of this gel, the hydrophilic part of the triblock copolymer forms a hydrogen bond with polyacrylamide, thereby obtaining a triblock copolymer/polyacrylamide double network gel. Hokkaido University successfully obtained a high-strength hydrogel by controlling these two physical bonds.

This hydrogel had a tensile breaking stress of 10 MPa, a tensile energy of 2850 kJ/m2, and a tensile elastic modulus of 14 MPa, showing excellent physical properties. Even if you open a hole in the gel and use it to lift a weight, the hole will not be torn. Moreover, even with large deformation, the strain rate at break reaches 600% (7 times the original length), and the linear response of stress can be maintained. In addition, when the broken surface of the gel is coated with dimethylformamide and recontacted, the broken bonds spontaneously re-form and the gels stick together again.

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