Ultrastrong and Tough Urushiol-Based Ionic Conductive Double Network Hydrogels as Flexible Strain Sensors

Polymers (Basel). 2023 Jul 28;15(15):3219. doi: 10.3390/polym15153219.


Ionic conductive hydrogels have attracted increasing research interest in flexible electronics. However, the limited resilience and poor fatigue resistance of current ionic hydrogels significantly restrict their practical application. Herein, an urushiol-based ionic conductive double network hydrogel (PU/PVA-Li) was developed by one-pot thermal initiation polymerization assisted with freeze-thaw cycling and subsequent LiCl soaking. Such a PU/PVA-Li hydrogel comprises a primary network of covalently crosslinked polyurushiol (PU) and a secondary network formed by physically crosslinked poly(vinyl alcohol) (PVA) through crystalline regions. The obtained PU/PVA-Li hydrogel demonstrates exceptional mechanical properties, including ultrahigh strength (up to 3.4 MPa), remarkable toughness (up to 1868.6 kJ/m3), and outstanding fatigue resistance, which can be attributed to the synergistic effect of the interpenetrating network structure and dynamic physical interactions between PU and PVA chains. Moreover, the incorporation of LiCl into the hydrogels induces polymer chain contraction via ionic coordination, further enhancing their mechanical strength and resilience, which also impart exceptional ionic conductivity (2.62 mS/m) to the hydrogels. Based on these excellent characteristics of PU/PVA-Li hydrogel, a high-performance flexible strain sensor is developed, which exhibits high sensitivity, excellent stability, and reliability. This PU/PVA-Li hydrogel sensor can be effectively utilized as a wearable electronic device for monitoring various human joint movements. This PU/PVA-Li hydrogel sensor could also demonstrate its great potential in information encryption and decryption through Morse code. This work provides a facile strategy for designing versatile, ultrastrong, and tough ionic conductive hydrogels using sustainable natural extracts and biocompatible polymers. The developed hydrogels hold great potential as promising candidate materials for future flexible intelligent electronics.

PMID:37571113 | PMC:PMC10421297 | DOI:10.3390/polym15153219


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