Particle deformation and concentration polarization in electroosmotic transport of hydrogels through pores


In this article, we report detection of deformable, hydrogel particles by the resistive-pulse technique using single pores in a polymer film. The hydrogels pass through the pores by electroosmosis and cause formation of a characteristic shape of resistive pulses indicating the particles underwent dehydration and deformation. These effects were explained via a non-homogeneous pressure distribution along the pore axis modeled by the coupled Poisson-Nernst-Planck and Navier-Stokes equations. The local pressure drops are induced by the electroosmotic fluid flow. Our experiments also revealed the importance of concentration polarization in the detection of hydrogels. Due to the negative charges as well as branched, low-density structure of the hydrogel particles, the concentration of ions in the particles is significantly higher than in the bulk. As a result, when an electric field is applied across the membrane, a depletion zone can be created in the vicinity of the particle observed as a transient drop of the current. Our experiments using pores with openings between 200 and 1600 nm indicated the concentration polarization dominated the hydrogels' detection of pores wider than 450 nm. The results are of importance for all studies that involve transport of molecules, particles, and cells through pores with charged walls. The developed inhomogeneous pressure distribution can potentially influence the shape of the transported species. The concentration polarization changes the interpretation of the resistive pulses; the observed current change does not necessarily reflect only the particle size but also the size of the depletion zone that is formed in the particle vicinity.

Document Type





deformation, hydrogels, pore, resistive-pulse technique

Publication Date


Journal Title

ACS Nano