A Rheo-Scopic Method to Monitor Growth of Calcium Carbonate in Gelatin Hydrogels


Abigail Regitsky


Abigail Regitsky, Bavand Keshavarz, Gareth H. McKinley, Niels Holten-Andersen

Author Affiliation: 



We have applied rheometry to study mineral nucleation and growth dynamics by measuring the modulations in viscoelastic mechanics of a hydrogel system during mineralization. Given its sensitivity towards hard-soft viscoelastic dynamics, rheology is a superior tool to characterize mineral composite hydrogel mechanics and thereby mechano- scopically capture mineralization kinetics otherwise difficult to study using traditional microscopy techniques. Our system consists of a gelatin hydrogel matrix, which is preloaded with calcium ions, and an aqueous solution of carbonate ions, which are allowed to diffuse through the gel to initiate the mineralization process. In order to monitor how the growth of minerals affects the viscoelastic mechanical properties of the gel network, we measure the storage (G') and loss (G") moduli of the system. We have found that gels with grown minerals exhibit higher storage and loss moduli than those without minerals and minerals simply mixed in. Specifically, they show a signature increase in low frequency energy dissipation, which scales with the volume fraction of particles mineralized in the matrix. We hypothesize that the distinct viscoelastic mechanics of the mineralized gels are caused by unique dissipative molecular dynamics at the CaCO3-gelatin interface caused by polymer-particle incorporation. Lastly, we have mechano-scopically captured mineral growth in situ, showcasing the potential of rheology for studying mineralization kinetics in real time.