Poroelastic properties of hydrogel microparticles†
Hydrogels can be formed in a number of different geometries depending upon desired function. However, due to the lack of appropriate models required to interpret experimental data, it remains unclear whether hydrogel microparticles have the same poroelastic properties as hydrogel films made with the same components. We perform numerical simulations to determine the universal force relaxation of a poroelastic hydrogel particle undergoing constant compression by a spherical probe, allowing analysis of experimental measurements of hydrogel particle material properties for the first time. In addition, we perform experimental measurements, using colloidal probe atomic force microscopy, of the force relaxation of polyacrylamide films and particles made with identical monomer and cross-linker concentrations. We fit our universal curve to the experimental data in order to extract material properties including shear modulus, Poisson's ratio and solvent diffusivity. Good agreement is found for the shear modulus and Poisson's ratio between the particles and the films. In contrast, the diffusivity of the polyacrylamide particles was found to be about half that of the films, suggesting that differences in the synthesis and homogeneity of the films and the particles play a role in determining transport and subsequent release of molecules in hydrogel particles.