High-Water-Content Hydrogel by Mixing Clay and Dendritic Molecular Binder.

Qigang Wang, Justin L. Mynar, Masaru Yoshida, Eunji Lee, Myongsoo Lee, Kou Okuro, Kazushi Kinbara, and Takuzo Aida

Nature 2010, 463, 339–343.

[DOI: 10.1038/nature08693]

  Water is essential for life on earth and considered a symbol of purity.  71% of the surface of our planet is covered by water, and our own body is composed of 65% of this simple but vital molecule.  Considering increasing environmental issues, the idea of replacing plastics with water-based materials, so-called hydrogels, seems quite reasonable.  We herein developed a hydrogel that can be quickly prepared by simply mixing water, clay (2–3%) and very minute amounts (< 0.4%) of organic components.

  This material can be molded into shape-persistent free-standing objects owing to its exceptionally high mechanical strength, and instantaneously self-heals completely when destroyed.  Furthermore, it preserves biologically active proteins for catalysis.  Prior to our discovery, no hydrogels have been reported to possess all these exceptional features.  Noteworthy, this material is formed only by non-covalent forces resulting from the specific design of a telechelic dendritic macromolecule with multiple adhesive termini for binding onto clay.
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