Skin-inspired hydrogel-elastomer hybrids with robust interfaces and functional microstructures

Nat Commun. 2016 Jun 27;7:12028. doi: 10.1038/ncomms12028.


Inspired by mammalian skins, soft hybrids integrating the merits of elastomers and hydrogels have potential applications in diverse areas including stretchable and bio-integrated electronics, microfluidics, tissue engineering, soft robotics and biomedical devices. However, existing hydrogel-elastomer hybrids have limitations such as weak interfacial bonding, low robustness and difficulties in patterning microstructures. Here, we report a simple yet versatile method to assemble hydrogels and elastomers into hybrids with extremely robust interfaces (interfacial toughness over 1,000 Jm(-2)) and functional microstructures such as microfluidic channels and electrical circuits. The proposed method is generally applicable to various types of tough hydrogels and diverse commonly used elastomers including polydimethylsiloxane Sylgard 184, polyurethane, latex, VHB and Ecoflex. We further demonstrate applications enabled by the robust and microstructured hydrogel-elastomer hybrids including anti-dehydration hydrogel-elastomer hybrids, stretchable and reactive hydrogel-elastomer microfluidics, and stretchable hydrogel circuit boards patterned on elastomer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Chemical Engineering
  • Elastomers / chemistry*
  • Hydrogels / chemistry*
  • Materials Testing*
  • Mechanical Phenomena
  • Surface Properties


  • Elastomers
  • Hydrogels