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The Mechanical Properties of Hydrogel Hybrids

LIN Wei-Chun (Chau-Jean) PPMD

The facile synthesis and mechanical characterization of novel, tough //poly (N,N-dimethyl acrylamide) (PDMA)//-silica hydrogel hybrids are presented to understand the role played by strong physical interactions between silica nanoparticles and the PDMA polymer on the properties of chemically cross-linked highly swollen PDMA networks. A detailed comparison of the hybrids with unmodified //PDMA gels indicates that the incorporation of silica nanoparticles in the hydrogel increases the compression strength and the fracture toughness of notched samples up to an order of magnitude while increasing its modulus by a factor of 6 with a volume fraction of particles of the order of only 7%. The hybrid gels present a strain dependent hysteresis but no permanent damage or residual strain upon unloading even after repeated cycling, a very unique property for such tough hydrogels. The reason for these exceptional increase in toughness is attributed mainly to the combined effect of breakable silica/polymer bonds and of a wide distribution of elastic chain lengths.