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Superabsorbent Hydrogels That Are Robust And Highly Stretchable

B. Cipriano, S. Banik, R. Sharma, D. Rumore, Wonseok Hwang, R. Briber, S. Raghavan
Published 2014 · Chemistry

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Polymer hydrogels synthesized by chemical cross-linking of acrylate or acrylamide monomers can absorb more than 100 times their weight in water. However, such gels are usually fragile and rupture when stretched to moderate strains (∼50%). Many strategies have been developed to create tougher gels, including double-networking, incorporation of nanoparticles as cross-linkers, etc., but these strategies typically retard the water absorbency of the gel. Here, we present a new approach that gives rise to superabsorbent hydrogels having superior mechanical properties. The key to our approach is the self-cross-linking ability of N,N-dimethylacrylamide (DMAA). That is, we conduct a free-radical polymerization of DMAA (along with an ionic comonomer such as sodium acrylate) but without any multifunctional monomers. A hydrogel still forms due to interchain covalent bonds between the growing linear polymer chains. Gels formed by this route can be stretched up to 1350% strain in the unswollen state. The same gels are ...
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