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Structure investigation of nanohybrid PDMA/silica hydrogels at rest and under uniaxial deformation

Abstract : Nano-hybrid hydrogels were prepared by cross-linking polymerization of N,N-dimethylacrylamide (DMA) within a dispersion of silica nano-particles. Working at constant polymer/water ratio, the mechanical properties of hydrogels can be finely tuned by changing either the level of covalent cross-linker and/or the amount of particles that act as physical cross-linkers through specific adsorption of PDMA chains. Whatever is the cross-linking ratio (from 0 to 1 mol%), the introduction of silica nano-particles dramatically improves the mechanical behavior of hydrogels with a concomitant increase of stiffness and nominal strain at failure. The physical interactions being reversible in nature, the dynamics of the adsorption/desorption process of PDMA chains directly controls the time-dependence of the mechanical properties. Small angle neutron scattering experiments, performed in contrast matching conditions, show that silica particles, which repel themselves at short range, remain randomly dispersed during the formation of the PDMA network. Although PDMA chains readily interact with silica particles, no significant variation of the polymer concentration was observed in the vicinity of silica surfaces. Together with the time dependence of physical interactions pointed out by mechanical analyses, this result is attributed to the moderate adsorption energy of PDMA chains with silica surfaces at pH 9. From 2D SANS experiments, it was shown that strain rapidly gives rise to a non affine deformation of the hybrid network with shearing due to the transverse compression of the particles. After loading at intermediate deformation, the particles recover their initial distribution due to the covalent network that is not damaged in these conditions. That is no longer true at high deformation where residual anisotropy is observed.
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Séverine Rose, Alba Marcellan, Tetsuharu Narita, François Boué, Fabrice Cousin, et al.. Structure investigation of nanohybrid PDMA/silica hydrogels at rest and under uniaxial deformation. Soft Matter, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015, 11, pp.5905-5917 ⟨10.1039/C5SM01121C⟩. ⟨hal-01171811⟩

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