Developing a dual-gradient ultrafast biomimetic snapping hydrogel material

phys.org | April 24, 2019

Bioinspired materials are designed and engineered to mimic the biological functions of nature; however fast actuation is an important but challenging task to recreate in the lab. In a recent study, Wenxin Fan and co-workers in the interdisciplinary departments of materials science, engineering, chemistry, biochemistry and macromolecular science in the USA and China, presented a new paradigm to design responsive hydrogel sheets that could exhibit ultrafast and inverse snapping deformation. They engineered the hydrogel sheets with dual-gradient architecture to accumulate elastic energy in the polymers by converting prestored energy for rapid reverse snapping and energy release. Fan et al. controlled the magnitude and location of stored energy in the hydrogelsheets to program their snapping reaction and achieve different structures and actuation behaviors. They developed a theoretical model thereafter to demonstrate the crucial role of dual gradients and predicted the snapping motion of a variety of different hydrogel materials. The new design principle will provide guidance to engineer actuation materials for applications in tissue engineering, soft robotics and as active medical implants. The results are now published in Science Advances.

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