Assessing stiffness of nanofibres in bacterial cellulose hydrogels: Numerical-experimental framework

This work presents a numerical-experimental framework for assessment of stiffness of nanofibres in a fibrous hydrogel – bacterial cellulose (BC) hydrogel – based on a combination of in-aqua mechanical testing, microstructural analysis and finite-element (FE) modelling. Fibrous hydrogels attracted growing interest as potential replacements to some tissues. To assess their applicability, a comprehensive understanding of their mechanical response under relevant conditions is desirable; a lack of such knowledge is mainly due to changes at microscale caused by deformation that are hard to evaluate in-situ because of the dimensions of nanofibres and aqueous environment. So, discontinuous FE simulations could provide a feasible solution; thus, properties of nanofibres could be characterised with a good accuracy. An alternative – direct tests with commercial testing systems – is cumbersome at best. Hence, in this work, a numerical-experimental framework with advantages of convenience and relative easiness in implementation is suggested to determine the stiffness of BC nanofibres. The obtained magnitudes of 53.7–64.9 GPa were assessed by calibrating modelling results with the original experimental data.