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A Facile Method to Fabricate Anisotropic Hydrogels with Perfectly Aligned Hierarchical Fibrous Structures


Natural structural materials (such as tendons and ligaments) are comprised of multiscale hierarchical architectures, with dimensions ranging from nano‐ to macroscale, which are difficult to mimic synthetically. Here a bioinspired, facile method to fabricate anisotropic hydrogels with perfectly aligned multiscale hierarchical fibrous structures similar to those of tendons and ligaments is reported. The method includes drying a diluted physical hydrogel in air by confining its length direction. During this process, sufficiently high tensile stress is built along the length direction to align the polymer chains and multiscale fibrous structures (from nano‐ to submicro‐ to microscale) are spontaneously formed in the bulk material, which are well‐retained in the reswollen gel. The method is useful for relatively rigid polymers (such as alginate and cellulose), which are susceptible to mechanical signal. By controlling the drying with or without prestretching, the degree of alignment, size of superstructures, and the strength of supramolecular interactions can be tuned, which sensitively influence the strength and toughness of the hydrogels. The mechanical properties are comparable with those of natural ligaments. This study provides a general strategy for designing hydrogels with highly ordered hierarchical structures, which opens routes for the development of many functional biomimetic materials for biomedical applications.

Anisotropic hydrogels with perfectly aligned hierarchical fibrous structures are fabricated by a simple method. Drying a physical hydrogel by confining its length direction generates a 1D tensile force that controls polymeric alignment and supramolecular interactions. A tunable structure and mechanical properties are realized in different types of rigid polymeric hydrogels and the properties are comparable with those of natural ligaments.

Authors:   Md. Tariful Islam Mredha, Yun Zhou Guo, Takayuki Nonoyama, Tasuku Nakajima, Takayuki Kurokawa, Jian Ping Gong
Journal:   Advanced Materials
Year:   2018
Pages:   n/a
DOI:   10.1002/adma.201704937
Publication date:   17-Jan-2018
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