Phase separation and ripening in a viscoelastic gel

Tine Curk*, Erik Luijten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The process of phase separation in elastic solids and viscous fluids is of fundamental importance to the stability and function of soft materials. We explore the dynamics of phase separation and domain growth in a viscoelastic material such as a polymer gel. Using analytical theory and Monte Carlo simulations, we report a domain growth regime in which the domain size increases algebraically with a ripening exponent α that depends on the viscoelastic properties of the material. For a prototypical Maxwell material, we obtain α = 1, which is markedly different from the well-known Ostwald ripening process with α = 1=3. We generalize our theory to systems with arbitrary power-law relaxation behavior and discuss our findings in the context of the longterm stability of materials as well as recent experimental results on phase separation in cross-linked networks and cytoskeleton.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2304655120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
StatePublished - 2023


  • Ostwald ripening
  • gel
  • phase separation
  • rheology
  • viscoelasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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