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J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Jul 18;134(28):11767-73. doi: 10.1021/ja3044568. Epub 2012 Jul 3.

Ultrahigh-water-content supramolecular hydrogels exhibiting multistimuli responsiveness.

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Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis, Department of Chemistry, Cambridge University, Lensfield Road, Cambridge CB2 1EW, UK.


Hydrogels are three-dimensional networked materials that are similar to soft biological tissues and have highly variable mechanical properties, making them increasingly important in a variety of biomedical and industrial applications. Herein we report the preparation of extremely high water content hydrogels (up to 99.7% water by weight) driven by strong host-guest complexation with cucurbit[8]uril (CB[8]). Cellulosic derivatives and commodity polymers such as poly(vinyl alcohol) were modified with strongly binding guests for CB[8] ternary complex formation (K(eq) = 10(12) M(-2)). When these polymers were mixed in the presence of CB[8], whereby the overall solid content was 90% cellulosic, a lightly colored, transparent hydrogel was formed instantaneously. The supramolecular nature of these hydrogels affords them with highly tunable mechanical properties, and the dynamics of the CB[8] ternary complex cross-links allows for rapid self-healing of the materials after damage caused by deformation. Moreover, these hydrogels display responsivity to a multitude of external stimuli, including temperature, chemical potential, and competing guests. These materials are easily processed, and the simplicity of their preparation, their availability from inexpensive renewable resources, and the tunability of their properties are distinguishing features for many important water-based applications.

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