A hydrogel is a polymeric three-dimensional network structure. The applications of this material type are diversified over a broad range of fields. Their soft nature and similarity to natural tissue allows for their use in tissue engineering, medical devices, agriculture, and industrial health products. However, as the demand for such materials increases, the need to understand the material mechanics is paramount across all fields. As a result, many attempts to numerically model the swelling and drying of chemically responsive hydrogels have been published. Material characterization of the mechanical properties of a gel bead under osmotic loading is difficult. As a result, much of the literature has implemented variants of swelling theories. Therefore, this article focuses on reviewing the current literature and outlining the numerical models of swelling hydrogels as a result of exposure to chemical stimuli. Furthermore, the experimental techniques attempting to quantify bulk gel mechanics are summarized. Finally, an overview on the mechanisms governing the formation of geometric surface instabilities during transient swelling of soft materials is provided.
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