a1 Department of Chemical Engineering, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2B2, Canada
a2 McGill Institute for Advanced Materials, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2B2, Canada
Embedding colloidal particles in polymeric hydrogels often endows the polymer skeleton with appealing characteristics for microfluidics and biosensing applications. This theoretical study provides a rigorous foundation for interpreting active electrical microrheology and electroacoustic experiments on such materials. In addition to viscoelastic properties of the composites, these techniques sense physicochemical characteristics of the particle–polymer interface. Wang & Hill (Soft Matter, vol. 4, 2008, p. 1048) studied the steady response of a rigid, impenetrable sphere in a compressible hydrogel skeleton. Here, we extend their analysis to arbitrary frequencies, showing, in general, how the frequency response depends on the particle size and charge, ionic strength of the electrolyte and elastic and hydrodynamic characteristics of the polymer skeleton. Our calculations capture the transition from quasi-steady compressible to quasi-steady incompressible dynamics as the frequency passes through the reciprocal draining time of the gel. Above the reciprocal draining time, the skeleton and fluid move in unison, so the dynamics are incompressible and, thus, given to an excellent approximation by the well-known dynamic electrophoretic mobility but with the Newtonian shear viscosity replaced by a complex, frequency-dependent value.
(Received May 28 2008)
(Revised July 27 2009)
(Accepted July 27 2009)
(Online publication November 02 2009)