Polymer Engineering Faculty Research

Mechanical Behavior of Double Network Hydrogels Composed of a Physical Network and a Chemical Network

Robert Weiss, The University of Akron


A facile method is developed to fabricate nanocomposite double-network (DN) gels with excellent mechanical properties, which do not fracture upon loading up to 78 MPa and a strain above 0.98, by compositing of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) without organic modification. Investigations of swelling behaviors, and compressive and tensile properties indicate that equilibrium swelling ratio, compressive modulus and stress, fracture stress, Young’s modulus, and yield stress are significantly improved in the presence of CNTs. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) reveals that the pore size of nanocomposite DN gels is decreased and some embedded micro-network structures are observed on the fracture surface in comparison to DN gels without CNTs, which leads to the enhancement of mechanical properties. The compressive loading-unloading behaviors show that the area of hysteresis loop, dissipated energy, for the first compressive cycle, increases with addition of CNTs, which is much higher than that for the successive cycles. Furthermore, the energy dissipation mechanism, similar to the Mullins effect observed in filled rubbers, is demonstrated for better understanding the nanocomposite DN polymer gels with CNTs.