Buckling initiation in layered hydrogels during transient swelling
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of the mechanics and physics of solids. 2019, 128 219-238. 10.1016/j.jmps.2019.04.008
Subjected to compressive stresses, soft polymers with stiffness gradients can display various buckling patterns. These compressive stresses can have different origins, like mechanical forces, temperature changes, or, for hydrogel materials, osmotic swelling. Here, we focus on the influence of the transient nature of osmotic swelling on the initiation of buckling in confined layered hydrogel structures. A constitutive model for transient hydrogel swelling is outlined and implemented as a user-subroutine for the commercial finite element software Abaqus. The finite element procedure is benchmarked against linear perturbation analysis results for equilibrium swelling showing excellent correspondence. Based on the finite element results we conclude that the initiation of buckling in a two-layered hydrogel structure is highly affected by transient swelling effects, with instability emerging at lower swelling ratios and later in time with a lower diffusion coefficient. In addition, for hard-on-soft systems the wavelength of the buckling pattern is found to decrease as the diffusivity of the material is reduced for gels with a relatively low stiffness gradient between the substrate and the upper film. This study highlights the difference between equilibrium and transient swelling when it comes to the onset of instability in hydrogels, which is believed to be of importance as a fundamental aspect of swelling as well as providing input to guiding principles in the design of specific hydrogel systems.