Anisotropic Hydrogel from Complexation-Driven Reorientation of Semirigid Polyanion at Ca<sup>2+</sup> Diffusion Flux Front

We report a macroscopically anisotropic hydrogel developed by the facile dialysis of a synthetic semirigid polyanion in aqueous solution of multivalent cations. By the uniaxial diffusion of Ca<sup>2+</sup> into two ends of a thin rectangular reaction cell containing semirigid polyanion poly(2,2′-disulfonyl-4,4′-benzidine terephthalamide) (PBDT) aqueous solution, centimeter-scale anisotropic hydrogels with the PBDT molecules and their self-assembled fibrous bundles align in <i>perpendicular</i> to the Ca<sup>2+</sup> diffusion direction are obtained. The anisotropic gel shows a higher elastic modulus and tensile fracture stress/strain in the direction parallel to the PBDT orientation than that of perpendicular direction. By observing <i>in situ</i> the gelation process, an extraordinary molecular reorientation of PBDT at the Ca<sup>2+</sup> diffusion flux front is observed for the first time. The mechanism for the molecular reorientation is discussed in terms of complexation and gelation.