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Guest-Molecule-Directed Assembly of Mesostructured Nanocomposite Polymer/Organoclay Hydrogels



Given the urgent need for soft materials with high functional value, hydrogels based on the integrative assembly of organic polymers and nanoscale inorganic building blocks—so-called nanocomposite polymer hydrogels—offer a generic approach to swollen hybrid networks with tuneable and synergistic properties. Here, we report a new approach to assembling nanocomposite polymer hydrogels with multiple levels of structural complexity and enhanced functionality by using nanoscale integration of mesostructured inorganic building blocks capable of sequestering and releasing drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen) and enzymes (glucose oxidase). The viscoelastic materials are produced by noncovalent crosslinking of poly(vinylpyrrolidone) in the presence of low amounts (1–5 wt%) of an exfoliated synthetic organoclay that undergoes in situ guest-molecule-directed self-assembly. The hydrogels can be moulded into shape-persistent, free-standing objects that are stable between pH values of 4 to 11 and self-heal when damaged. Significantly, the mesostructured nanocomposite polymer hydrogels, which can be reversibly dried and reconstituted in the form of highly swollen materials, exhibit sustained drug release and can be recharged and reused. The results provide important guidelines for developing new multifunctional nanocomposite polymer hydrogels based on the concerted self-assembly of inorganic building blocks with mesostructured interiors.