Development of a multi-position indentation setup : Mapping soft and patternable heterogeneously crosslinked polymer networks

Boots, J.N.M.; Fokkink, R.; Gucht, J. Van der; Kodger, T.E.


We present the development of a multi-position indentation setup capable of spatially mapping mechanically heterogeneous materials. A detailed description of the indentation instrumentation is first provided, emphasizing force sensitivity, noise reduction, and signal fidelity. We first present indentation experiments on soft hydrogels that are submerged in water and show how the large contributions to the measured force due to the air-water surface tension can be avoided. The displacement field of the indented hydrogel is visualized using fluorescently coated microspheres embedded in the hydrogel, allowing simultaneous mapping of the stress and strain fields for a soft polymer network. We then fabricate a polymer network with patterned elasticity using halftone UV lithography and map the elastic modulus with the multi-position indentation instrument. The applied UV pattern is found back in the measured elastic modulus map, showing the capability of the multi-position indentation setup to map mechanically heterogeneous polymer networks.