Colloid and Polymer Science

, Volume 291, Issue 9, pp 2031–2047 | Cite as

A review on tough and sticky hydrogels

  • Charles W. Peak
  • Jonathan J. Wilker
  • Gudrun SchmidtEmail author
Invited Review


In this review, we survey recent literature (2009–2013) on hydrogels that are mechanically tough and adhesive. The impact of published work and trends in the field are examined. We focus on design concepts, new materials, structures related to mechanical performance and adhesion properties. Besides hydrogels made of individual polymers, concepts developed to toughen hydrogels include interpenetrating and double networks, slide ring polymer gels, topological hydrogels, ionically cross-linked copolymer gels, nanocomposite polymer hydrogels, self-assembled microcomposite hydrogels, and combinations thereof. Hydrogels that are adhesive in addition to tough are also discussed. Adhesive properties, especially wet adhesion of hydrogels, are rare but needed for a variety of general technologies. Some of the most promising industrial applications are found in the areas of sensor and actuator technology, microfluidics, drug delivery and biomedical devices. The most recent accomplishments and creative approaches to making tough and sticky hydrogels are highlighted. This review concludes with perspectives for future directions, challenges and opportunities in a continuously changing world.


Tough Hydrogel Adhesion Polymer Cross-linking Mechanical strength 



This work was supported by the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University (GS), by the National Science Foundation (JJW) and by the Office of Naval Research (JJW). We thank the reviewers for useful suggestions and comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles W. Peak
    • 1
  • Jonathan J. Wilker
    • 2
  • Gudrun Schmidt
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Weldon School of Biomedical EngineeringPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Department of ChemistryPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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