Hydrogels from Amorphous Calcium Carbonate and Polyacrylic Acid: Bio-Inspired Materials for “Mineral Plastics”


Given increasing environmental issues due to the large usage of non-biodegradable plastics based on petroleum, new plastic materials, which are economic, environmentally friendly, and recyclable are in high demand. One feasible strategy is the bio-inspired synthesis of mineral-based hybrid materials. Herein we report a facile route for an amorphous CaCO3 (ACC)-based hydrogel consisting of very small ACC nanoparticles physically cross-linked by poly(acrylic acid). The hydrogel is shapeable, stretchable, and self-healable. Upon drying, the hydrogel forms free-standing, rigid, and transparent objects with remarkable mechanical performance. By swelling in water, the material can completely recover the initial hydrogel state. As a matrix, thermochromism can also be easily introduced. The present hybrid hydrogel may represent a new class of plastic materials, the “mineral plastics”.



(This paper was highlighted by Giulia Pacchioni. Hydrogels: Mineral Shapeshifters. Nat. Rev. Mater. 2016, 1, 16062.)