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.