Issue 43, 2021

Scaling laws to predict humidity-induced swelling and stiffness in hydrogels

Abstract

From pasta to biological tissues to contact lenses, gel and gel-like materials inherently soften as they swell with water. In dry, low-relative-humidity environments, these materials stiffen as they de-swell with water. Here, we use semi-dilute polymer theory to develop a simple power-law relationship between hydrogel elastic modulus and swelling. From this relationship, we predict hydrogel stiffness or swelling at arbitrary relative humidities. Our close predictions of properties of hydrogels across three different polymer mesh families at varying crosslinking densities and relative humidities demonstrate the validity and generality of our understanding. This predictive capability enables more rapid material discovery and selection for hydrogel applications in varying humidity environments.

Graphical abstract: Scaling laws to predict humidity-induced swelling and stiffness in hydrogels

Supplementary files

Article information

Article type
Paper
Submitted
13 Aug 2021
Accepted
26 Sep 2021
First published
27 Sep 2021

Soft Matter, 2021,17, 9893-9900

Scaling laws to predict humidity-induced swelling and stiffness in hydrogels

Y. Gao, N. K. K. Chai, N. Garakani, S. S. Datta and H. J. Cho, Soft Matter, 2021, 17, 9893 DOI: 10.1039/D1SM01186C

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