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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Room temperature 3D printing of super-soft and solvent-free elastomers.

  • Author(s): Xie, Renxuan
  • Mukherjee, Sanjoy
  • Levi, Adam E
  • Reynolds, Veronica G
  • Wang, Hengbin
  • Chabinyc, Michael L
  • Bates, Christopher M
  • et al.

Super-soft elastomers derived from bottlebrush polymers show promise as advanced materials for biomimetic tissue and device applications, but current processing strategies are restricted to simple molding. Here, we introduce a design concept that enables the three-dimensional (3D) printing of super-soft and solvent-free bottlebrush elastomers at room temperature. The key advance is a class of inks comprising statistical bottlebrush polymers that self-assemble into well-ordered body-centered cubic sphere phases. These soft solids undergo sharp and reversible yielding at 20°C in response to shear with a yield stress that can be tuned by manipulating the length scale of microphase separation. The addition of a soluble photocrosslinker allows complete ultraviolet curing after extrusion to form super-soft elastomers with near-perfect recoverable elasticity well beyond the yield strain. These structure-property design rules create exciting opportunities to tailor the performance of 3D-printed elastomers in ways that are not possible with current materials and processes.

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