Modeling approaches to the dynamics of hydrogel swelling

M. C. Calderer, B. Chabaud, S. Lyu, H. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We consider a gel as an immiscible mixture of polymer and solvent, and derive governing equations of the dynamics. They include the balance of mass and linear momentum of the individual components. The model allows to account for nonlinear elasticity, viscoelasticity, transport and diffusion. The total free energy of the system combines the elastic contribution of the polymer with the Flory-Huggins energy of mixing. The system is also formulated in terms of the center of mass velocity and the diffusive velocity, involving the total and the relative stresses. This allows for the identification of special regimes, such as the purely diffusive and the transport ones. We also obtain an equation for the rate of change of the total energy yielding decay for special choices of boundary conditions. The energy law motivates the Rayleghian variational approach discussed in the last part of the article. We consider the case of a gel in a one-dimensional strip domain in order to study special features of the dynamics, in particular, the early dynamics. We find that the monotonicity of the extensional stress is a necessary condition to guarantee the propagation of the swelling interface between the gel and its solvent. Such monotonicity condition is satisfied for data corresponding to linear entangled polymers. However, for polyssacharide gels the monotonicity of the stress fails at a critical volume fraction, suggesting the onset of de-swelling. The weak elasticity is responsible for the loss of monotonicity of the stress. The analysis also suggests that type II diffusion is a hyperbolic phenomenon rather than a diffusive one. One goal is to compare the derivation method, assumptions and resulting equations with other models available in the literature, and determine their regimes of validity. The stress-diffusion coupling model by Yamaue and Doi is one main benchmark. We assume that the gel is non-ionic, and neglect thermal effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-779
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Computational and Theoretical Nanoscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Diffussion
  • Elasticity
  • Equations of dynamics
  • Mixture of polymers
  • Transport


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