Effect of random fiber networks on bubble growth in gelatin hydrogels†
In hydrodynamics, the event of dynamic bubble growth in a pure liquid under tensile pressure is known as cavitation. The same event can also be observed in soft materials (e.g., elastomers and hydrogels). However, for soft materials, bubble/cavity growth is either defined as cavitation if the bubble growth is elastic and reversible or as fracture if the cavity growth is by material failure and irreversible. In any way, bubble growth can cause damage to soft materials (e.g., tissue) by inducing high strain and strain-rate deformation. Additionally, a high-strength pressure wave is generated upon the collapse of the bubble. Therefore, it is crucial to identify the critical condition of spontaneous bubble growth in soft materials. Experimental and theoretical observations have agreed that the onset of bubble growth in soft materials requires higher tensile pressure than pure water. The extra tensile pressure is required since the cavitating bubble needs to overcome the elastic and surface energy in soft materials. In this manuscript, we developed two models to study and quantify the extra tensile pressure for different gelatin concentrations. Both the models are then compared with the existing cavitation onset criteria of rubber-like materials. Validation is done with the experimental results of threshold tensile pressure for different gelatin concentrations. Both models can moderately predict the extra tensile pressure within the intermediate range of gelatin concentrations (3–7% [w/v]). For low concentration (∼1%), the network's non-affinity plays a significant role and must be incorporated. On the other hand, for higher concentrations (∼10%), the entropic deformation dominates, and the strain energy formulation is not adequate.