Both stimuli-responsive gels and growing biological tissue can undergo pronounced morphological transitions from two-dimensional (2D) layers into 3D geometries. We derive an analytical model that allows us to quantitatively predict the features of 2D-to-3D shape changes in polymer gels that encompasses different degrees of swelling within the sample. We analyze a particular configuration that emerges from a flat rectangular gel that is divided into two strips (bistrips), where each strip is swollen to a different extent in solution. The final configuration yields double rolls that display a narrow transition layer between two cylinders of constant radii. To characterize the rolls' shapes, we modify the theory of thin incompatible elastic sheets to account for the Flory-Huggins interaction between the gel and the solvent. This modification allows us to derive analytical expressions for the radii, the amplitudes, and the length of the transition layer within a given roll. Our predictions agree quantitatively with available experimental data. In addition, we carry out numerical simulations that account for the complete nonlinear behavior of the gel and show good agreement between the analytical predictions and the numerical results. Our solution sheds light on a stress focusing pattern that forms at the border between two dissimilar soft materials. Moreover, models that provide quantitative predictions on the final morphology in such heterogeneously swelling hydrogels are useful for understanding growth patterns in biology as well as accurately tailoring the structure of gels for various technological applications.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
- Statistics and Probability
- Condensed Matter Physics