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Tough bonding of hydrogels to diverse non-porous surfaces


In many animals, the bonding of tendon and cartilage to bone is extremely tough (for example, interfacial toughness 800 J m−2; refs 1,2), yet such tough interfaces have not been achieved between synthetic hydrogels and non-porous surfaces of engineered solids3,4,5,6,7,8,9. Here, we report a strategy to design tough transparent and conductive bonding of synthetic hydrogels containing 90% water to non-porous surfaces of diverse solids, including glass, silicon, ceramics, titanium and aluminium. The design strategy is to anchor the long-chain polymer networks of tough hydrogels covalently to non-porous solid surfaces, which can be achieved by the silanation of such surfaces. Compared with physical interactions, the chemical anchorage results in a higher intrinsic work of adhesion and in significant energy dissipation of bulk hydrogel during detachment, which lead to interfacial toughness values over 1,000 J m−2. We also demonstrate applications of robust hydrogel–solid hybrids, including hydrogel superglues, mechanically protective hydrogel coatings, hydrogel joints for robotic structures and robust hydrogel–metal conductors.

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Figure 1: A design strategy for tough bonding of hydrogels to diverse solids.
Figure 2: Experimental and modelling results on various types of hydrogel–solid bonding.
Figure 3: Performance of the tough bonding of hydrogels to various solids.
Figure 4: Novel applications of hydrogel–solid hybrids enabled by the tough bonding.


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The authors thank A. Wang and L. Griffith for their help on the cell viability test. This work is supported by ONR (No. N00014-14-1-0528), MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies and NSF (No. CMMI-1253495). H.Y. acknowledges the financial support from Samsung Scholarship. X.Z. acknowledges the supports from NIH (No. UH3TR000505) and MIT Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

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Authors and Affiliations



X.Z. and H.Y. conceived the idea. H.Y., T.Z., S.L., G.A.P. and X.Z. designed the research. H.Y., S.L. and G.A.P. carried out the experiments and T.Z. performed the numerical simulation. H.Y., T.Z., S.L., G.A.P. and X.Z. analysed and interpreted the results. X.Z. drafted the manuscript and all authors contributed to the writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Xuanhe Zhao.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Yuk, H., Zhang, T., Lin, S. et al. Tough bonding of hydrogels to diverse non-porous surfaces. Nature Mater 15, 190–196 (2016).

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