A theory of coupled diffusion and large deformation in polymeric gels
A large quantity of small molecules may migrate into a network of long polymers, causing the network to swell, forming an aggregate known as a polymeric gel. This paper formulates a theory of the coupled mass transport and large deformation. The free energy of the gel results from two molecular processes: stretching the network and mixing the network with the small molecules. Both the small molecules and the long polymers are taken to be incompressible, a constraint that we enforce by using a Lagrange multiplier, which coincides with the osmosis pressure or the swelling stress. The gel can undergo large deformation of two modes. The first mode results from the fast process of local rearrangement of molecules, allowing the gel to change shape but not volume. The second mode results from the slow process of long-range migration of the small molecules, allowing the gel to change both shape and volume. We assume that the local rearrangement is instantaneous, and model the long-range migration by assuming that the small molecules diffuse inside the gel. The theory is illustrated with a layer of a gel constrained in its plane and subject to a weight in the normal direction. We also predict the scaling behavior of a gel under a conical indenter.
Hong, W; Zhao, X; Zhou, J; Suo, Z
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