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Review: fatigue of hydrogels

Ruobing Bai's picture

Here is our review article on fatigue of hydrogels. This is the first review of the subject. We review fatigue as any failure of material under prolonged static or cyclic loads. The paper starts with fundamentals, and covers a broad field, yet leaving a lot of interesting questions to be answered. The paper links the chemistry and mechanics of hydrogels.

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Fatigue of hydrogels

Ruobing Bai, Jiawei Yang, Zhigang Suo*


Hydrogels have been developed since the 1960s for applications in personal care, medicine, and engineering. Evidence has accumulated that hydrogels under prolonged loads suffer fatigue. Symptoms include change in properties, as well as nucleation and growth of cracks. This article is the first review on the fatigue of hydrogels. Emphasis is placed on the chemistry of fatigue—concepts and experiments that link symptoms of fatigue to processes of molecules. Symptoms of fatigue are characterized by testing samples with and without precut cracks, subject to prolonged static and cyclic loads. We describe the use of energy release rate for samples with precut cracks, under the conditions of large-scale inelasticity, for hydrogels of complex rheology. Highlighted are three experimental setups: pure shear, tear, and peel, where energy release rate is readily obtained for materials of arbitrary rheology. We describe chemistries of bonds and topologies of networks. Noncovalent bonds and some covalent bonds are reversible: they reform after breaking under relevant conditions. Most covalent bonds are irreversible. Each topology of networks is a way to connect reversible and irreversible bonds. We review experimental data of hydrogels of five representative topologies of networks. We compare the Lake-Thomas threshold, the cyclic-fatigue threshold, and the static-fatigue threshold. Fatigue is a molecular disease. All symptoms of fatigue originate from one fundamental cause: molecular units of a hydrogel change neighbors under prolonged loads. Fatigue correlates with rheology, according to which we distinguish poroelastic fatigue, viscoelastic fatigue, and elastic-plastic fatigue. Many hydrogels have sacrificial bonds that act as tougheners. We distinguish tougheners of two types according to their stress-relaxation behavior under a prolonged static stretch. A liquid-like toughener relaxes to zero stress, and increases neither static-fatigue threshold nor cyclic-fatigue threshold. A solid-like toughener relaxes to a nonzero stress, increases static-fatigue threshold, but does not increase cyclic-fatigue threshold. We outline a strategy to create hydrogels of high endurance. Because of the molecular diversity among hydrogels, the chemistry of fatigue holds the key to the discovery of hydrogels of properties previously unimagined. It is hoped that this review helps to connect chemists and mechanicians.

PDF icon Fatigue of hydrogels.pdf6.33 MB

Comments's picture

Hi Ruobing, thanks for sharing this wonderful review, which will shed light on a new exciting field.

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