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Creators/Authors contains: "Liu, Xinyue"

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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2023
  2. Skeletal muscles possess the combinational properties of high fatigue resistance (1,000 J/m 2 ), high strength (1 MPa), low Young’s modulus (100 kPa), and high water content (70 to 80 wt %), which have not been achieved in synthetic hydrogels. The muscle-like properties are highly desirable for hydrogels’ nascent applications in load-bearing artificial tissues and soft devices. Here, we propose a strategy of mechanical training to achieve the aligned nanofibrillar architectures of skeletal muscles in synthetic hydrogels, resulting in the combinational muscle-like properties. These properties are obtained through the training-induced alignment of nanofibrils, without additional chemical modifications or additives. In situ confocal microscopy of the hydrogels’ fracturing processes reveals that the fatigue resistance results from the crack pinning by the aligned nanofibrils, which require much higher energy to fracture than the corresponding amorphous polymer chains. This strategy is particularly applicable for 3D-printed microstructures of hydrogels, in which we can achieve isotropically fatigue-resistant, strong yet compliant properties.
  3. The emerging applications of hydrogels in devices and machines require hydrogels to maintain robustness under cyclic mechanical loads. Whereas hydrogels have been made tough to resist fracture under a single cycle of mechanical load, these toughened gels still suffer from fatigue fracture under multiple cycles of loads. The reported fatigue threshold for synthetic hydrogels is on the order of 1 to 100 J/m 2 . We propose that designing anti-fatigue-fracture hydrogels requires making the fatigue crack encounter and fracture objects with energies per unit area much higher than that for fracturing a single layer of polymer chains. We demonstrate that the controlled introduction of crystallinity in hydrogels can substantially enhance their anti-fatigue-fracture properties. The fatigue threshold of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) with a crystallinity of 18.9 weight % in the swollen state can exceed 1000 J/m 2 .