Extracting the surface tension of soft gels from elastocapillary wave behavior
Mechanically-excited waves appear as surface patterns on soft agarose gels. We experimentally quantify the dispersion relationship for these waves over a range of shear modulus in the transition zone where the surface energy (capillarity) is comparable to the elastic energy of the solid. Rayleigh waves and capillary-gravity waves are recovered as limiting cases. Gravitational forces appear as a pre-stress through the self-weight of the gel and are important. We show the experimental data fits well to a proposed dispersion relationship which differs from that typically used in studies of capillary to elastic wave crossover. We use this combined theoretical and experimental analysis to develop a new technique for measuring the surface tension of soft materials, which has been historically difficult to measure directly.