Refractive-index-matched hydrogel materials for measuring flow-structure interactions

Margaret L. Byron, Evan A. Variano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


In imaging-based studies of flow around solid objects, it is useful to have materials that are refractive-index-matched to the surrounding fluid. However, materials currently in use are usually rigid and matched to liquids that are either expensive or highly viscous. This does not allow for measurements at high Reynolds number, nor accurate modeling of flexible structures. This work explores the use of two hydrogels (agarose and polyacrylamide) as refractive-index-matched models in water. These hydrogels are inexpensive, can be cast into desired shapes, and have flexibility that can be tuned to match biological materials. The use of water as the fluid phase allows this method to be implemented immediately in many experimental facilities and permits investigation of high-Reynolds-number phenomena. We explain fabrication methods and present a summary of the physical and optical properties of both gels, and then show measurements demonstrating the use of hydrogel models in quantitative imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computational Mechanics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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