Characterizing Materials: Shear Rheology of Bioinks & Hydrogels

Our team works to design hydrogels that mimic biological tissues. We use super hydrophilic polymers that are saturated with water (hydrogels) to build synthetic tissues. We work to design hydrogels that copy the mechanical and chemical properties of living tissues while also recapitulating tissues’ architecture. While these materials are often prepared by hand, additive manufacturing is becoming an increasingly important way of fabricating synthetic tissues and biomaterials from fluid bioinks. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) bioprinters can print geometrically complex materials with property gradients and thus enable the research community to produce increasingly biomimetic material.

During the Summer 2021 summer research session, our team designed and constructed the first iteration of a novel FDM bioprinter. This printer is able to print single-layer models. During the Fall 2021 semester, we plan to evaluate the viscoelastic properties of a range of bioinks and hydrogels using oscillatory shear rheology. Through these measurements we aim to (1) determine the elastic and pseudoplastic characteristics of highly viscous polymer-in-water bioinks and harness these properties to inform the design of our 3D bioprinter and, more specifically, the print nozzle, (2) determine and engineer the polymerization kinetics of precursors to inform bioprinter operational parameters, and (3) determine the storage and loss moduli of synthetic hydrogels and map their properties to those exhibited by biological tissues. In undertaking this work, you join the team and jump right into evaluating material properties that inform the manufacture of synthetic biomaterials to form model tissues.

Check out this representative publication to learn more:

Name of research group, project, or lab
Microfluidics and Biomaterials Laboratory
Why join this research group or lab?

As a member of this group, you would work on projects that collectively build knowledge at the intersection of fluid mechanics, bioengineering, and material engineering. Together, our work seeks to build tools and materials for evaluating biological function in benchtop models to uncover biological function.

Logistics Information:
Project categories
Biomedical Engineering
Fluid Mechanics
Materials Science
Student ranks applicable
Student qualifications

Students with a keen interest in Material Science and Engineering or who have taken Materials Engineering, Biomaterials, and/or fluid mechanics (or those planning to take these or related courses during the Fall 2021 semester) are encouraged to apply.

Time commitment
Fall - Part Time
Spring - Part Time
Academic Credit
Number of openings
Techniques learned

Material synthesis, oscillatory shear rheology, mechanical property testing, experimental design, data analysis

Contact Information:
Mentor name
Mentor email
Mentor position
Name of project director or principal investigator
Steven Santana
Email address of project director or principal investigator
2 sp. | 0 appl.
Hours per week
Fall - Part Time (+1)
Fall - Part TimeSpring - Part Time
Project categories
Biomedical Engineering (+2)
Biomedical EngineeringFluid MechanicsMaterials Science