Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are compact and ultrasensitive devices, which enable label-free sensing at the single-molecule level. Despite their high sensitivity, WGM resonators have not been thoroughly investigated for use in dynamic biochemical processes including molecular diffusion and polymerization. In this work, the first report of using WGM sensors to continuously monitor a chemical reaction (i.e. gelation) in situ in a hydrogel is described. Specifically, we monitor and quantify the gelation dynamics of polyacrylamide hydrogels using WGM resonators and compare the results to an established measurement method based on rheology. Rheology measures changes in viscoelasticity, while WGM resonators measure changes in refractive index. Different gelation conditions were studied by varying the total monomer concentration and crosslinker concentration of the hydrogel precursor solution, and the resulting similarities and differences in the signal from the WGM resonator and rheology are elucidated. This work demonstrates that WGM alone or in combination with rheology can be used to investigate the gelation dynamics of hydrogels to provide insights into their gelation mechanisms.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics