Structurally Dynamic Hydrogels Derived from 1,2-Dithiolanes

The design and generation of adaptable materials derived from structurally dynamic polymers provides a strategy for generating smart materials that can respond to environmental stimuli or exhibit self-healing behavior. Herein we report an expedient organocatalytic ring-opening polymerization of cyclic carbonates containing pendant dithiolanes (trimethylene carbonate/dithiolane, TMCDT) from poly­(ethylene oxide) diols to generate water-soluble triblock (ABA) copolymers containing a central poly­(ethylene oxide) block and terminal dithiolane blocks. Hydrogels generated from the triblock copolymers and a cross-linking dithiol exhibited dynamic behavior as a result of the reversible ring opening of the pendant 1,2-dithiolanes. These materials exhibit self-healing behavior, can be injected through a syringe, and rapidly recover their mechanical properties after a severe strain deformation. The dynamic properties of these gels can be modulated with the number of dithiolane units, pH, and temperature.