SHApe RElaxation (SHARE): A Method to Characterize the Poroelastic Properties of Swellable Soft Materials

Princeton University Background
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.
Technology Overview
Researchers at Princeton University’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering have developed Shape Relaxation (SHARE), an alternative way to measure 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. This approach was validated 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. It is anticipated that the SHARE approach will find broad use in a range of applications of hydrogels and other swellable soft materials.
Stage of Development
The method has been experimentally validated with varying particles and stresses.
Benefits

Can be used for measurements on discrete particles
Does not require specially prepared planar samples
Not sensitive to indentation velocity or hydrogel thickness
Does not require rheometers or Atomic Force Microscopes for measurements

Applications

Measurement of poroelastic diffusion coefficient of swellable soft material
Drug delivery of hydrogel encapsulated compounds
Agriculture irrigation
Water desalination/harvesting

Opportunity
Princeton is currently seeking commercial partners for the further development and commercialization of this opportunity.

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