Scientists from the University of Cambridge have developed a new type of hydrogel that can withstand colossal loads.

According to the authors, the new hydrogel has a unique internal structure that reacts to compression and transitions to a glass-like state. This makes it difficult to crush him.

Hydrogels are versatile materials. Scientists are interested in them due to the fact that they contain water in large quantities, which means that they are biocompatible and can be used in the human body. They are also elastic and can self-repair. Such properties can be used in robotics, to create advanced contact lenses, artificial tissues and in wound healing.

The authors of the new work wanted to expand the range of applications of the hydrogel and for this they changed its basic molecular structure.

To create materials with the desired mechanical properties, we use crosslinkers, in which two molecules are chemically linked. We use reversible crosslinkers to make soft and elastic hydrogels.

Jiehuan Huang, Ph.D. and first author of the study.

During the work, the researchers used barrel-shaped molecules – they bind pairs of other molecules together inside their cavity. This strong bond between the molecules provides the properties of the new hydrogel – it can go from a state similar to rubber to a state that resembles superhard, shatterproof glass.

According to the developers, the material can support the weight of an elephant. The strength of the hydrogel was tested using a vehicle. We drove over the hydrogel by car and it was able to restore its previous appearance.