Dynamics of water imbibition through hydrogel-coated capillary tubes

Sooyoung Chang, Kaare H. Jensen*, Wonjung Kim*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Water-absorbing materials consisting of hydrogel particles are widely used for agricultural substrates, hygienic products, drug delivery systems, and microfluidic devices. Hydrogel particles absorb water with expansion, leading to dynamics involving complicated interactions of intergranular liquid flow and hydrogel deformation. It is thus difficult to predict the water absorption rate of these materials. Water flow in hydrogel-coated capillary tubes also occurs with the deformation of flow passages, so it can be analogous to capillary flow through porous structures made of hydrogels. Here we report a combined experimental and theoretical investigation of water flow through capillaries whose inner surface is covered with a hydrogel layer. We experimentally measured the flow rate of water through hydrogel-coated capillary tubes and the volume of water absorbed by the hydrogel layer. We developed a mathematical model for capillary flow including the effects of the water absorption and swelling of the hydrogel layer. Our model is in good agreement with the measurements of the water flow rate and elucidates how the absorption and swelling of hydrogel regulate capillary flow. This study provides a theoretical framework for understanding the dynamics of capillary flow through porous structures composed of hydrogels, leading to insights into the engineering applications of porous hydrogel materials.

Original languageEnglish
Article number064301
JournalPhysical Review Fluids
Issue number6
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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