Use of microaspiration to study the mechanical properties of polymer gel microparticles
The mechanical properties of polyacrylamide (PA) and polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microparticle populations have been measured using microaspiration, a recently developed experimental technique. Microaspiration is an augmented version of micropipette aspiration, in which optical microscopy data are obtained as individual soft particles pass through the tip of a micropipette. During microaspiration, the ion current passing through the pipette tip is also measured, and the synchronised optical and current data streams are used to study and quantify mechanical properties. Ion current signatures for the poroelastic PA particles were qualitatively different from those of the viscoelastic PDMS particles. For PA particles the current gradually reduced during each aspiration event, whereas for PDMS particles the current trace resembled a negative top hat function. For PA particles it was found that the maximum change in current during aspiration (ΔIh) increased with particle size. By considering the initial elastic response, a mean effective shear modulus (G′) of 6.6 ± 0.2 kPa was found for aspiration of 115 PA particles of ∼10–20 μm diameter. Using a viscoelastic model to describe flow into the pipette, a mean initial effective elastic modulus (E0′) of 3.5 ± 1.7 MPa was found for aspiration of 17 PDMS particles of ∼ 9–11 μm diameter. These moduli are consistent with previously reported literature values, providing initial validation of the microaspiration method.