Science, Vol.363, No.6426, 504-+, 2019
Mechanoresponsive self-growing hydrogels inspired by muscle training
Living tissues, such as muscle, autonomously grow and remodel themselves to adapt to their surrounding mechanical environment through metabolic processes. By contrast, typical synthetic materials cannot grow and reconstruct their structures once formed. We propose a strategy for developing "self-growing" polymeric materials that respond to repetitive mechanical stress through an effective-mechanochemical transduction. Robust double-network hydrogels provided with a sustained monomer supply undergo self-growth, and the materials are substantially strengthened under repetitive loading through a structural destruction-reconstruction process. This strategy also endows the hydrogels with tailored functions at desired positions by mechanical stamping. This work may pave the way for the development of self-growing gel materials for applications such as soft robots and intelligent devices.