What is it about?

Synthetic hydrogels with attractive mechanical strength and self-healing are particular appealing, in light of their significance and prospects in industrial, engineering and biomimetic fields. In this study, mechanical robustness and self-recovery are successfully integrated into a single-component colloidal hydrogel system of aluminium hydroxide nanosheets (AHNSs). The inorganic colloidal hydrogel gains an excellent elasticity and stiffness, as indicated by its elastic modulus >10 MPa, due to the use of tough AHNS gelator and the formation of long-range ordered lamellar architectures consisting of self-assembled side-to-side or interlaced-stacking NS superstructures. The metastability in internal gel network endows the hydrogel a self-healing efficiency of larger than 100%. The AHNS hydrogel has been demonstrated to be effectively lubricative and anti-corrosive. Its mechanical, tribological and anticorrosion properties can be optimized by tuning its internal NS configuration and salt content.

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Why is it important?

The prominent mechanical strength and self-recovery allowed the hydrogels adaptable to any load-, stress-, or strain-bearing conditions. The excellent tribological behavior enabled the hydrogels to serve as potent lubricants for micro/nano-electro-mechanical system or frictional materials for large-scale equipment. The abrupt alteration in gel mechanical performances by changing their internal self-assembled structures closely mimicked sea cucumbers. Together with their anti-corrosion properties, we envision that the inorganic AHNS hydrogel might act as an alternative to organic polymeric hydrogels to find a broad range of applications in industrial, engineering, and biomimetic fields. Our study may be a potent replenishment to the scope of materials science and may provide new insights into nanotechnology, colloidal chemistry, green tribology and mechanical engineering.


Over the past years, few pioneering works have manifested the feasibility of preparing hydrogels solely using inorganic NSs and water as compositions. Hopefully our study on AHNS hydrogels may provide new insights into creating multifunctional purely inorganic semi-solid materials with mechanical robustness, self-healing, high lubrication and anti-corrosion that may find potential applications in industrial, engineering, and biomimetic fields.

Lanzhou Institute of Chemical Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences

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This page is a summary of: Hydrogels totally from inorganic nanosheets and water with mechanical robustness, self-healing, controlled lubrication and anti-corrosion, Nano Research, July 2022, Tsinghua University Press,
DOI: 10.1007/s12274-022-4730-7.
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