Science Perspective on tailoring elastomers

Can materials be both soft and tough? Historically, low toughness has severely limited implementation of soft materials, such as hydrogels, in emerging technologies. Our perspective “Pathways to tough yet soft materials” analyzes state-of-the-art techniques for enhancing mechanical properties of hydrogels. In this article, published in the latest issue of Science, postdoc Nikola Bosnjak discusses novel methods for achieving such material features, including unfolding of mechanophores and sliding of highly entangled polymer chains. We lay out chemical and physical strategies for further toughening of soft materials, and propose physics-based models as a tool to facilitate development of such materials.

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