Colloid and Polymer Science

, Volume 289, Issue 5, pp 513–521

Phase field model simulations of hydrogel dynamics under chemical stimulation

Original Contribution

DOI: 10.1007/s00396-011-2381-4

Cite this article as:
Li, D., Yang, H. & Emmerich, H. Colloid Polym Sci (2011) 289: 513. doi:10.1007/s00396-011-2381-4


Two decades ago, it has been observed experimentally that hydrogels immersed in a bath solution swells or shrinks under external stimulations (Ric̆ka et al., Macromolecules 17:2916–2921, 1984). Recently, this fact has received renewed interest, since understanding the precise mechanisms underlying that kind of behavior has the potential to tailor most sensitive drug delivery systems based on hydrogels (Segalman and Witkowski, Mater Sci Eng C 2:243–249, 1995). Here we contribute to a precise understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the hydrogels’ swelling kinetics as well as dynamics by proposing for the first time a model approach that can resolve the inherent short-range correlation effects along the hydrogel–solution interface jointly with the long-range ionic transport fields. To that end, we investigate the swelling dynamics of hydrogels, which is a moving boundary problem, by a phase field model, which couples the Nernst–Planck equation for the concentration of mobile ions, Poisson equation for the electric potential, mechanical equation for the displacement, and an equation for the phase field variable. Simulation for two-dimensional case reveals that under the chemical stimulation, the hydrogel will swell or shrink if the concentration of mobile ions inside bath solution decreases or increases. This is in agreement with the experimental results qualitatively and validates our new model approach.


HydrogelSwellingPhase field modelNumerical simulation

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Materials and Process Simulation (MPS)University of BayreuthBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina