WIAS Preprint No. 2562, (2018)

Surface induced phase separation of a swelling hydrogel


  • Hennessy, Matthew G.
  • Münch, Andreas
  • Wagner, Barbara

2010 Mathematics Subject Classification

  • 74H10 82C26

2008 Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme

  • 83.80.Rs, 83.10.Tv


  • Hydrogel, asymptotic analysis, nonlinear elasticity, phase transition




We present a formulation of the free boundary problem for a hydrogel that accounts for the interfacial free energy and finite strain due to the large deformation of the polymer network during solvent transport across the free boundary. For the geometry of an initially dry layer fixed at a rigid substrate, our model predicts a phase transition when a critical value of the solvent concentration has been reached near the free boundary. A one-dimensional case study shows that depending on the flux rate at the free boundary an initial saturation front is followed by spinodal decomposition of the hydrogel and the formation of an interfacial front that moves through the layer. Moreover, increasing the shear modulus of the elastic network delays or even suppresses phase separation.

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