Mechanically Robust 3D Nanostructure Chitosan-Based Hydrogels with Autonomic Self-Healing Properties
2016-09-19T00:00:00Z (GMT) by
Fabrication of hydrogels based on chitosan (CS) with superb self-healing behavior and high mechanical and electrical properties has become a challenging and fascinating topic. Most of the conventional hydrogels lack these properties at the same time. Our objectives in this research were to synthesize, characterize, and evaluate the general properties of chitosan covalently cross-linked with zinc phthalocyanine tetra-aldehyde (ZnPcTa) framework. Our hope was to access an unprecedented self-healable three-dimensional (3D) nanostructure that would harvest the superior mechanical and electrical properties associated with chitosan. The properties of cross-linker such as the structure, steric effect, and rigidity of the molecule played important roles in determining the microstructure and properties of the resulting hydrogels. The tetra-functionalized phthalocyanines favor a dynamic Schiff-base linkage with chitosan to form a 3D porous nanostructure. Based on this strategy, the self-healing ability, as demonstrated by rheological recovery and macroscopic and microscopic observations, is introduced through dynamic covalent Schiff-base linkage between NH<sub>2</sub> groups in CS and benzaldehyde groups at cross-linker ends. The hydrogel was characterized using FT-IR, NMR, UV/vis, and rheological measurements. In addition, cryogenic scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM) was employed as a technique to visualize the internal morphology of the hydrogels. Study of the surface morphology of the hydrogel showed a 3D porous nanostructure with uniform morphology. Furthermore, incorporating the conductive nanofillers, such as carbon nanotubes (CNTs), into the structure can modulate the mechanical and electrical properties of the obtained hydrogels. Interestingly, these hydrogel nanocomposites proved to have very good film-forming properties, high modulus and strength, acceptable electrical conductivity, and excellent self-healing properties at neutral pH. Such properties can be finely tuned through variation of the cross-linker and CNT concentration, and as a result these structures are promising candidates for potential applications in various fields of research.