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Poroelasticity of elastomeric gels—when mechanics meets chemistry
Zhigang Suo
Harvard University
Long and flexible polymers can be covalently crosslinked to form a three-dimensional network,
namely, an elastomer. The network can imbibe a solvent and swell, forming an aggregate known
as an elastomeric gel. Gels have many uses, including personal care, drug delivery, tissue
engineering, microfluidic regulation, and oilfield management. Mixtures of macromolecular
elastomers and mobile molecules also constitute most tissues of plants and animals. The
amount of swelling can be large and reversible, regulated by environmental stimuli, such as
force, electric field, pH, salinity, and light. This talk describes a theory that combines the
mechanics of nonlinear fields and the chemistry of molecular mixtures. The theory is illustrated
with examples of swelling-induced large deformation, contact, and bifurcation. The theory is
further illustrated with recent experiments.