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  1. Abstract

    Access to multimaterial polymers with spatially localized properties and robust interfaces is anticipated to enable new capabilities in soft robotics, such as smooth actuation for advanced medical and manufacturing technologies. Here, orthogonal initiation is used to create interpenetrating polymer networks (IPNs) with spatial control over morphology and mechanical properties. Base catalyzes the formation of a stiff and strong polyurethane, while blue LEDs initiate the formation of a soft and elastic polyacrylate. IPN morphology is controlled by when the LED is turned “on”, with large phase separation occurring for short time delays (≈1–2 min) and a mixed morphology for longer time delays (>5 min), which is supported by dynamic mechanical analysis, small angle X‐ray scattering, and atomic force microscopy. Through tailoring morphology, tensile moduli and fracture toughness can be tuned across ≈1–2 orders of magnitude. Moreover, a simple spring model is used to explain the observed mechanical behavior. Photopatterning produces “multimorphic” materials, where morphology is spatially localized with fine precision (<100 µm), while maintaining a uniform chemical composition throughout to mitigate interfacial failure. As a final demonstration, the fabrication of hinges represents a possible use case for multimorphic materials in soft robotics.

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  2. Abstract

    Water swollen polymer networks are attractive for applications ranging from tissue regeneration to water purification. For water purification, charged polymers provide excellent ion separation properties. However, many ion exchange membranes (IEMs) are brittle, necessitating the use of thick support materials that ultimately decrease throughput. To this end, novel double network hydrogels (DNHs) with variable water content are prepared and characterized in terms of mechanical and ion transport properties to evaluate their potential utility as tough membrane materials. The first network contains fixed anionic charges, while the other is comprised of a copolymer with varied ratios of hydrophobic ethyl acrylate (EA) and hydrophilic dimethyl acrylamide (DMA) repeat units. Characterization of freestanding DNH films reveals a reduction in water content from 88 to 53 wt% and a simultaneous increase in ultimate stress and strain by ~3.5× and ~4.5×, respectively, for 95%/5% EA/DMA, relative to 100% DMA. Fundamental salt transport properties relevant to water purification, including permeability, solubility, and diffusivity, are measured and systematically compared with conventional membrane materials to inform the development of DNHs for membrane applications. The ability to simultaneously reduce water content and increase mechanical integrity highlights the potential of DNHs as a synthetic platform for future membrane applications.

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  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 19, 2024
  4. Spatially synthesizing stiff and elastic domains from a single monomer forms robust synthetic plastics. 
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