Percolation-induced gel–gel phase separation in a dilute polymer network

News 2023/10/31

Cosmic large-scale structures, animal flocks and living tissues can be considered non-equilibrium organized systems created by dissipative processes. Replicating such properties in artificial systems is still difficult. Herein we report a dissipative network formation process in a dilute polymer–water mixture that leads to percolation-induced gel–gel phase separation. The dilute system, which forms a monophase structure at the percolation threshold, spontaneously separates into two co-continuous gel phases with a submillimetre scale (a dilute-percolated gel) during the deswelling process after the completion of the gelation reaction. The dilute-percolated gel, which contains 99% water, exhibits unexpected hydrophobicity and induces the development of adipose-like tissues in subcutaneous tissues. These findings support the development of dissipative structures with advanced functionalities for distinct applications, ranging from physical chemistry to tissue engineering.

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