Strong, Self-healing Supramolecular Hydrogels

DBH 1100

ChEMS Seminar

Featuring Justin Lee Mynar, Ph.D.

Department of Chemistry

University of California, Berkeley


A huge environmental issue that has gained the attention of the scientific community is the reduction of our dependency on fossil-fuels for energy. Because conventional plastics are produced from petroleum products, there is significant interest in developing new class of materials with similar properties, but that can be synthesized without use of crude oil-based feedstocks.  The idea of replacing plastics with water-based materials, so-called hydrogels, could be one solution. Here, we report that water and clay (2–3 per cent by mass), when mixed with a minute proportion (<0.4 per cent by mass) of highly-tailored organic components, quickly form a transparent hydrogel. This material can be molded into shape-persistent, free-standing objects owing to its exceptional mechanical strength, and can also rapidly and completely self-heal when damaged. Further, these gels can encapsulate and preserve biologically-active proteins for catalysis. Surprisingly, this class of materials is formed only by non-covalent interactions that result from the specific design of a telechelic dendritic macromolecule with multiple adhesive termini for binding to clay. To date these supramolecular hydrogels surpass almost all other plastic and hydrogel materials in their ability to encompass material strength, damage induced self-healing, and biological compatibility within a single material.

About the Speaker:

Justin Lee Mynar, Ph.D., received his first university degree in 2002 at Trinity University, before coming to the University of California, Berekley for graduate studies under the supervision of Professor Jean Fréchet. After receiving a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 2007, he undertook a postdoctoral appointment under the supervision of Professor Takuzo Aida at the University of Tokyo, Japan. He then joined the Chemistry and Biotechnology Faculty at the University of Tokyo in 2008 as an assistant professor. In 2009, he returned to Berkeley as Senior Researcher and Research Manager. He manages a laboratory of 50 people composed of students and post-doctoral fellows with projects in the areas of organic photovoltaics, organic light emitting diodes, drug/ bioimaging delivery, catalysis, and general polymer/organic synthesis. He is an independent scientific lead for seven students and one postdoctoral fellow.