Poroelastic shape relaxation of hydrogel particles†
Hydrogels are commonly used in research and energy, manufacturing, agriculture, and biomedical applications. These uses typically require hydrogel mechanics and internal water transport, described by the poroelastic diffusion coefficient, to be characterized. Sophisticated indentation-based approaches are typically used for this purpose, but they require expensive instrumentation and are often limited to planar samples. Here, we present Shape Relaxation (SHARE), an alternative way to assess the poroelastic diffusion coefficient of hydrogel particles that is cost-effective, straightforward, and versatile. This approach relies on first indenting a hydrogel particle via swelling within a granular packing, and then monitoring how the indented shape of the hydrogel relaxes after it is removed from the packing. We validate this approach using experiments in packings with varying grain sizes and confining stresses; these yield measurements of the poroelastic diffusion coefficient of polyacrylamide hydrogels that are in good agreement with those previously obtained using indentation approaches. We therefore anticipate that the SHARE approach will find broad use in a range of applications of hydrogels and other swellable soft materials.
- This article is part of the themed collection: 2021 Soft Matter Emerging Investigators