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An Epidermis-like Hierarchical Smart Coating with a Hardness of Tooth Enamel

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journal contribution
posted on 31.01.2018, 00:00 authored by Xiaodong Qi, Dan Zhang, Zhongbao Ma, Wenxin Cao, Ying Hou, Jiaqi Zhu, Yang Gan, Ming Yang
We overcome the fundamental dilemma in achieving hard materials with self-healing capability by integrating an epidermis-like hierarchical stratified structure with attractive mechanical and barrier properties of graphene oxide and show that such biomimetic design enables a smart hierarchical coating system with a synergetic healing effect and a record-high stiffness (31.4 ± 1.8 GPa)/hardness (2.27 ± 0.09 GPa) among all self-healable polymeric films even comparable to that of tooth enamel. A quasi-linear layer-by-layer (LBL) film with constituent graphene oxide is deposited on top of an exponential LBL counterpart as a protective hard layer, forming a hierarchical stratified assembly mimicking the structure of epidermis. The hybrid multilayers can achieve a complete restoration after scratching thanks to the mutual benefit: The soft underneath cushion can provide additional polymers to assist the recovery of the outer hard layer, which in turn can be a sealing barrier promoting the self-healing of the soft layer during stimulated polymer diffusion. The presenting hybridization mode of LBL assembly represents a promising tool for integrating seemingly contradictory properties in artificial materials with potential performances surpassing those in nature.