pp 1–13 | Cite as

High-strength, tough, and self-healing hydrogel based on carboxymethyl cellulose

  • Wei ChenEmail author
  • Yunhao Bu
  • Delin Li
  • Chuanjie Liu
  • Guangxue Chen
  • Xiaofang Wan
  • Nan LiEmail author
Original Research


Hydrogels are the focus of extensive research due to their potential applications in various fields including tissue engineering, drug delivery, soft actuators, and sensors, etc. However, insufficient functionality and weak mechanical properties limit their practical applications. Herein, we developed a simple approach to fabricate strong, tough and self-healable hydrogels by introducing sodium carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) into poly (acrylic acid) (PAA)–Fe3+ hydrogels as well as by simply soaking the gels in sodium chloride (NaCl) solution. During the deformation process, the synergetic interactions of –COO/Fe3+ physically ionic networks as well as PAA covalent networks can homogeneously distribute stress, and more importantly, high degree of network densities, and chain entanglements introduced by soaking treatment could act as “sacrificial bonds” to dissipate energy effectively. As a result, the resulting optimal PAA/CMC1.0–Fe3+–S samples with water content of approximately 37.7 wt% possessed remarkable mechanical properties, with elastic modulus of 0.41 MPa, fracture tensile stress of 4.42 MPa, superior to that of PAA–Fe3+ and PAA/CMC1.0–Fe3+ hydrogels. Additionally, the noncovalent ionic interactions of PAA/CMC1.0–Fe3+ hydrogels serve as dynamic but stable associations, leading to effective self-healing efficiency (over 85%) after damage, with recovered fracture stress of 3.75 MPa as well as an elongation at break of about 750%. We expect this facile strategy may enrich the avenue in exploration of high-strength, tough and self-healing cellulosic hydrogels.

Graphic abstract


Carboxymethyl cellulose DN hydrogels Self-healing High mechanical properties 



The authors are extremely grateful to financial support from National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 21808126), Science and Technology Planning Project of Higher Education of Shandong Province (No. J14LD51), Science and Technology Planning Project of Qufu Normal University (No. xkj201413).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interest.

Supplementary material

10570_2019_2797_MOESM1_ESM.docx (684 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 683 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of EngineeringQufu Normal UniversityRizhaoChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Pulp and Paper EngineeringSouth China University of TechnologyGuangzhouChina

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