Mechanical characterization of oligo(ethylene glycol)-based hydrogels by dynamic nanoindentation experiments


Oligo(ethylene glycol)-based (OEG) hydrogel samples of varying cross-link densities and degrees of swelling were characterized through dynamic nanoindentation testing. Experiments were performed using a non-standard nanoindentation method, which was validated on a standard polystyrene sample. This method maximizes the capability of the instrument to measure the stiffness and damping of highly compliant, viscoelastic materials. Experiments were performed over the frequency range of 1 to 50 Hz, using a 1 mm diameter flat punch indenter. A hydration method was adopted to avoid sample dehydration during testing. Values of storage modulus (E′)(E′) ranged from 3.5 to 8.9 MPa for the different OEG-hydrogel samples investigated. Samples with higher OEG concentrations showed greater scatter in the modulus measurements and it is attributed to inhomogeneities in these materials. The (E′)(E′) values did not show a strong variation over frequency for any of the samples. Values of loss modulus (E″)(E″) were two orders of magnitude lower than the storage modulus, resulting in very low values of loss factor (E″/E′E″/E′<0.1). These are characteristics of strong gels, which present negligible viscous properties.
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