Editors' ChoiceHydrogels

A less structured way to better hydrogels

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Science  17 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6326, pp. 707-708
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6326.707-g

Hydrogels are composed of cross-linked polymers that are highly swollen with water. They are typically soft, squishy, and elastic, but they are not known for their strength or toughness. Gonzalez et al. show that unstructured proteins, namely, those that do not have folds or coils, can form the basis for strong, tough, and self-adhesive hydrogels. They genetically engineered Escherichia coli to produce elastic-like polypeptides with domains that are able to either covalently cross-link or form metal bonds with Zn2+ ions. The covalent cross-links provide the strength, and the reversible metal cross-links allow for the dissipation of energy and toughness when the hydrogel is stretched.

Adv. Mater. 10.1002/adma.201604743 (2017).

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