Characterizing poroelasticity of biological tissues by spherical indentation: an improved theory for large relaxation

J Mech Phys Solids. 2020 May;138:103920. doi: 10.1016/j.jmps.2020.103920. Epub 2020 Mar 3.


Flow of fluids within biological tissues often meets with resistance that causes a rate- and size-dependent material behavior known as poroelasticity. Characterizing poroelasticity can provide insight into a broad range of physiological functions, and is done qualitatively in the clinic by palpation. Indentation has been widely used for characterizing poroelasticity of soft materials, where quantitative interpretation of indentation requires a model of the underlying physics, and such existing models are well established for cases of small strain and modest force relaxation. We showed here that existing models are inadequate for large relaxation, where the force on the indenter at a prescribed depth at long-time scale drops to below half of the initially peak force (i.e., F(0)/F() > 2). We developed an indentation theory for such cases of large relaxation, based on Biot theory and a generalized Hertz contact model. We demonstrated that our proposed theory is suitable for biological tissues (e.g., spleen, kidney, skin and human cirrhosis liver) with both small and large relaxations. The proposed method would be a powerful tool to characterize poroelastic properties of biological materials for various applications such as pathological study and disease diagnosis.

Keywords: Mechanical characterization; Poisson ratio; diffusion coefficient; porous biomaterials; shear modulus.