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Dynamic Light Scattering Microrheology Reveals Multiscale Viscoelasticity of Polymer Gels and Precious Biological Materials

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posted on 15.12.2017, 15:20 by Brad A. Krajina, Carolina Tropini, Audrey Zhu, Philip DiGiacomo, Justin L. Sonnenburg, Sarah C. Heilshorn, Andrew J. Spakowitz
The development of experimental techniques capable of probing the viscoelasticity of soft materials over a broad range of time scales is essential to uncovering the physics that governs their behavior. In this work, we develop a microrheology technique that requires only 12 μL of sample and is capable of resolving dynamic behavior ranging in time scales from 10–6 to 10 s. Our approach, based on dynamic light scattering in the single-scattering limit, enables the study of polymer gels and other soft materials over a vastly larger hierarchy of time scales than macrorheology measurements. Our technique captures the viscoelastic modulus of polymer hydrogels with a broad range of stiffnesses from 10 to 104 Pa. We harness these capabilities to capture hierarchical molecular relaxations in DNA and to study the rheology of precious biological materials that are impractical for macrorheology measurements, including decellularized extracellular matrices and intestinal mucus. The use of a commercially available benchtop setup that is already available to a variety of soft matter researchers renders microrheology measurements accessible to a broader range of users than existing techniques, with the potential to reveal the physics that underlies complex polymer hydrogels and biological materials.

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