Abstract

Characterizing the elastic properties of soft materials through bulge testing relies on accurate measurement of deformation, which is experimentally challenging. To avoid measuring deformation, we propose a hydrodynamic bulge test for characterizing the material properties of thick, pre-stressed elastic sheets via their fluid--structure interaction with a steady viscous fluid flow. Specifically, the hydrodynamic bulge test relies on a pressure drop measurement across a rectangular microchannel with a deformable top wall. We develop a mathematical model using first-order shear-deformation theory of plates with stretching, and the lubrication approximation for Newtonian fluid flow. Specifically, a relationship is derived between the imposed flow rate and the total pressure drop. Then, this relationship is inverted numerically to yield estimates of the Young's modulus (given the Poisson ratio), if the pressure drop is measured (given the steady flow rate). Direct numerical simulations of two-way-coupled fluid--structure interaction are carried out in ANSYS to determine the cross-sectional membrane deformation and the hydrodynamic pressure distribution. Taking the simulations as “ground truth,” a hydrodynamic bulge test is performed using the simulation data to ascertain the accuracy and validity of the proposed methodology for estimating material properties. An error propagation analysis is performed via Monte Carlo simulation to characterize the susceptibility of the hydrodynamic bulge test estimates to noise. We find that, while a hydrodynamic bulge test is less accurate in characterizing material properties, it is less susceptible to noise, than a hydrostatic bulge test, in the input (measured) variable.

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