Mechanical characterization of functionally graded soft materials with ultrasound elastography


G.-Y. Li, Z.-Y. Zhang, J. Qian, Y. Zheng, W. Liu, H. Wu, and Y. Cao. 2019. “Mechanical characterization of functionally graded soft materials with ultrasound elastography.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 377, 2144.


Functionally graded soft materials (FGSMs) with microstructures and mechanical properties exhibiting gradients across a spatial volume to satisfy specific functions have received interests in recent years. How to characterize the mechanical properties of these FGSMs in vivo/in situ and/or in a non-destructive manner is a great challenge. This paper investigates the use of ultrasound elastography in the mechanical characterization of FGSMs. An efficient finite-element model was built to calculate the dispersion relation for surface waves in FGSMs. For FGSMs with large elastic gradients, the measured dispersion relation can be used to identify mechanical parameters. In the case where the elastic gradient is smaller than a certain critical value calculated here, our analysis on transient wave motion in FGSMs shows that the group velocities measured at different depths can infer the local mechanical properties. Experiments have been performed on polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) cryogel to demonstrate the usefulness of the method. Our analysis and the results may not only find broad applications in mechanical characterization of FGSMs but also facilitate the use of shear wave elastography in clinics because many diseases change the local elastic properties of soft tissues and lead to different material gradients.