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Application of Digital Image Correlation (DIC) to the Measurement of Strain Concentration of a PVA Dual-Crosslink Hydrogel Under Large Deformation


Hydrogels are a class of soft, highly deformable materials formed by swelling a network of polymer chains in water. With mechanical properties that mimic biological materials, hydrogels are often proposed for load bearing biomedical or other applications in which their deformation and failure properties will be important. To study the failure of such materials a means for the measurement of deformation fields beyond simple uniaxial tension tests is required. As a non-contact, full-field deformation measurement method, Digital Image Correlation (DIC) is a good candidate for such studies. The application of DIC to hydrogels is studied here with the goal of establishing the accuracy of DIC when applied to hydrogels in the presence of large strains and large strain gradients. Experimental details such as how to form a durable speckle pattern on a material that is 90% water are discussed. DIC is used to measure the strain field in tension loaded samples containing a central hole, a circular edge notch and a sharp crack. Using a nonlinear, large deformation constitutive model, these experiments are modeled using the finite element method (FEM). Excellent agreement between FEM and DIC results for all three geometries shows that the DIC measurements are accurate up to strains of over 10, even in the presence of very high strain gradients near a crack tip. The method is then applied to verify a theoretical prediction that the deformation field in a cracked sample under relaxation loading, i.e. constant applied boundary displacement, is stationary in time even as the stress relaxes by a factor of three.

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. CMMI -1537087.

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Correspondence to A. T. Zehnder.

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Liu, M., Guo, J., Hui, CY. et al. Application of Digital Image Correlation (DIC) to the Measurement of Strain Concentration of a PVA Dual-Crosslink Hydrogel Under Large Deformation. Exp Mech 59, 1021–1032 (2019).

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  • Digital image correlation
  • Hydrogel
  • Large deformation
  • Finite element simulation
  • Viscoelastic
  • Crack tip field