The interface of a soft hydrogel is easily deformed when it is in contact with particles, droplets or cells. Here we compute the intricate shapes of hydrogel menisci due to the indentation of point particles. The analysis is based on a free energy formulation, by which we also assess the interaction laws between neighbouring particles on hydrogel interfaces, similar to the "Cheerios effect". It is shown how the meniscus formed around the particles results from a competition between surface tension, elasticity and hydrostatic pressure inside the gel. We provide a detailed overview of the various scaling laws, which are governed by a characteristic shear modulus G∗ √ = γpg that is based on surface tension γ and gravity pg. Stiffer materials exhibit a solid-like response while softer materials are more liquid-like. The importance of G∗ is further illustrated by examining the Rayleigh-Taylor instability of soft hydrogels.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)