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J R Soc Interface. 2007 Dec 22;4(17):1169-73.

A novel optical coherence tomography-based micro-indentation technique for mechanical characterization of hydrogels.

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Institute of Science and Technology in Medicine, Keele University, Stoke-on-Trent, UK.


Depth-sensing micro-indentation has been well recognized as a powerful tool for characterizing mechanical properties of solid materials due to its non-destructive approach. Based on the depth-sensing principle, we have developed a new indentation method combined with a high-resolution imaging technique, optical coherence tomography, which can accurately measure the deformation of hydrogels under a spherical indenter at constant force. The Hertz contact theory has been applied for quantitatively correlating the indentation force and the deformation with the mechanical properties of the materials. Young's moduli of hydrogels estimated by the new method are comparable with those measured by conventional depth-sensing micro-indentation. The advantages of this new method include its capability to characterize mechanical properties of bulk soft materials and amenability to perform creeping tests. More importantly, the measurement can be performed under sterile conditions allowing non-destructive, in situ and real-time investigations on the changes in mechanical properties of soft materials (e.g. hydrogel). This unique character can be applied for various biomechanical investigations such as monitoring reconstruction of engineered tissues.

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