Reinforced hydrogel is 5 times stronger than steel

Hydrogels have repeatedly demonstrated unique qualities, for example, as dressings for wounds or materials for creating soft robots. But until now they have had one serious drawback - the lack of firmness.

A group of scientists from Hokkaido University has developed a set of hydrogel composites, or “reinforced soft composites, ” which are hydrogels laced with special fibers. The resulting composite material was 5 times stronger than high-carbon steel.

The structural basis of hydrogels is made up of hydrophilic polymer chains, which are 90% water. Making them elastic, flexible and at the same time very strong was made possible by the addition of tiny glass fibers as a result of the formation of a dynamic ionic bond.

The performance of the reinforced hydrogel looks impressive. It is 100 times stronger than any conventional hydrogel, 25 times stronger than fiberglass and 5 times stronger than steel.