It has been shown that the triphasic theory [1] is capable of describing many mechano-electrochemical phenomena observed in charged hydrated soft tissues or cells, such as free-swelling, stress-relaxation, streaming potential, diffusion potential, and electro-osmosis [e.g., 1–3]. The theory is useful for the study of signal transduction mechanisms at both tissue and cellular levels. This is important to understanding tissue physiology and pathology. To facilitate applications of the triphasic theory to many practical problems, it is necessary to develop a numerical method for quantitatively investigating tissue behaviors. Thus, the objective of this study is to develop a finite element formulation for the triphasic theory. A free-swelling problem was studied using this finite element method to investigate effects of inhomogeneity of fixed charge density (FCD) on ion concentration, tissue deformation, fluid flow and streaming potential etc.

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