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Open AccessArticle

Effects of Intrinsic Properties on Fracture Nucleation and Propagation in Swelling Hydrogels

Department of Mechanical Engineering, Eindhoven University of Technology, P.O. BOX 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Bernal Institute, University of Limerick, Limerick, V94 T9PX, Ireland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Polymers 2019, 11(5), 926;
Received: 28 April 2019 / Revised: 22 May 2019 / Accepted: 23 May 2019 / Published: 27 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Finite Element Methods in Smart Materials and Polymers)
PDF [522 KB, uploaded 27 May 2019]


In numerous industrial applications, the microstructure of materials is critical for performance. However, finite element models tend to average out the microstructure. Hence, finite element simulations are often unsuitable for optimisation of the microstructure. The present paper presents a modelling technique that addresses this limitation for superabsorbent polymers with a partially cross-linked surface layer. These are widely used in the industry for a variety of functions. Different designs of the cross-linked layer have different material properties, influencing the performance of the hydrogel. In this work, the effects of intrinsic properties on the fracture nucleation and propagation in cross-linked hydrogels are studied. The numerical implementation for crack propagation and nucleation is based on the framework of the extended finite element method and the enhanced local pressure model to capture the pressure difference and fluid flow between the crack and the hydrogel, and coupled with the cohesive method to achieve crack propagation without re-meshing. Two groups of numerical examples are given: (1) effects on crack propagation, and (2) effects on crack nucleation. Within each example, we studied the effects of the stiffness (shear modulus) and ultimate strength of the material separately. Simulations demonstrate that the crack behaviour is influenced by the intrinsic properties of the hydrogel, which gives numerical support for the structural design of the cross-linked hydrogel. View Full-Text
Keywords: hydrogel; swelling; fracture; nucleation; propagation hydrogel; swelling; fracture; nucleation; propagation

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Ding, J.; Remij, E.W.; Remmers, J.J.C.; Huyghe, J.M. Effects of Intrinsic Properties on Fracture Nucleation and Propagation in Swelling Hydrogels. Polymers 2019, 11, 926.

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