Anomalous Loss of Stiffness with Increasing Reinforcement in a Photo-Activated Nanocomposite

Hongyuan Zhu, Tian Jian Lu, Feng Xu, Guy M. Genin, Min Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hydrogels are commonly doped with stiff nanoscale fillers to endow them with the strength and stiffness needed for engineering applications. Although structure–property relations for many polymer matrix nanocomposites are well established, modeling the new generation of hydrogel nanocomposites requires the study of processing–structure–property relationships because subtle differences in chemical kinetics during their synthesis can cause nearly identical hydrogels to have dramatically different mechanical properties. The authors therefore assembled a framework to relate synthesis conditions (including hydrogel and nanofiller mechanical properties and light absorbance) to gelation kinetics and mechanical properties. They validated the model against experiments on a graphene oxide (GO) doped oligo (ethylene glycol) diacrylate (OEGDA), a system in which, in apparent violation of laws from continuum mechanics, doping can reduce rather than increase the stiffness of the resulting hydrogel nanocomposites. Both model and experiment showed a key role light absorbance-dominated gelation kinetics in determining nanocomposite mechanical properties in conjunction with nanofiller reinforcement, with the nanofiller's attenuation of chemical kinetics sometimes outweighing stiffening effects to explain the observed, anomalous loss of stiffness. By bridging the chemical kinetics and mechanics of nanocomposite hydrogels, the authors' modeling framework shows promise for broad applicability to design of hydrogel nanocomposites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2100147
JournalMacromolecular Rapid Communications
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • gelation kinetics
  • micromechanics
  • nanocomposite hydrogels
  • photo-activated nanocomposites


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