Using cavitation rheology to understand dipeptide-based low molecular weight gels†
The study of dipeptide-based hydrogels has been the focus of significant effort recently due to their potential for use in a variety of biomedical and biotechnological applications. It is essential to study the mechanical properties in order to fully characterise and understand this type of soft materials. In terms of mechanical properties, the linear elastic modulus is normally measured using traditional shear rheometry. This technique requires millilitre sample volumes, which can be difficult when only small amounts of gel are available, and can present difficulties when loading the sample into the machine. Here, we describe the use of cavitation rheology, an easy and efficient technique, to characterise the linear elastic modulus of a range of hydrogels. Unlike traditional shear rheometry, this technique can be used on hydrogels in their native environment, and small sample volumes are required. We describe our set-up and show how it can be used to probe and understand different types of gels. Gels can be formed by different triggers from the same gelator and this leads to different microstructures. We show that the data from the cavitational rheometer correlates with the underlying microstructure in the gels, which allows a greater degree of understanding of the gels than can be obtained from the bulk measurements.