- Repository URL:
- Materials Science; Engineering; Physics and Astronomy; hydrogel; particle-tracking; porosity; stimuli-response
We characterize the porosity of hydrogels by imaging the displacement trajectories of embedded tracer particles. This offers the possibility of characterizing the size and projected shape of individual pores as well as direct, real-space maps of heterogeneous porosity and its distribution. The scheme shows that when fluorescent spherical particles treated to avoid specific adsorption are loaded into the gel, their displacement trajectories from Brownian motion report on the size and projected shape in which the pore resides, convoluted by the particle size. Of special interest is how pores and their distribution respond to stimuli. These ideas are validated in agarose gels loaded with latex particles stabilized by adsorbed bovine serum albumin. Gels heated from room temperature produced an increasingly more monodisperse pore size distribution because increasing temperature preferentially enlarges smaller pores, but this was irreversible upon cooling, and shearing agarose gels beyond the yield point destroyed larger pores preferably. The method is considered to be generalizable beyond the agarose system presented here as proof of concept.