Numerical Approach to Simulate the Mechanical Behavior of Biodegradable Polymers during Erosion

POLYMERS 2023, 15(9), 1979

André Vieira, Enio Da Silva, Marcelo Ribeiro (

Biodegradable polymers find applications in many market segments. The ability to meet mechanical requirements within a certain time range, after which it degrades and is naturally absorbed, can be used to produce short-term use products that can be easily disposable with less environmental impact. In the segment of medical devices used in regenerative medicine, these materials are used to produce temporary implants that are naturally assimilated by the human body, avoiding a removal surgery. However, the design of these temporary devices still presents great challenges, namely in the verification of the main requirement: the lifetime of the device, associated with the progressive loss of mechanical properties, until its complete erosion and assimilation. Thus, in this study, a numerical approach is proposed to simulate the polymeric device’s mechanical behavior during its hydrolytic degradation by combining the hydrolysis kinetics, that depends on mechanical factors and promotes a decrease of molecular weight and consequent decrease of mechanical performance, and erosion, when molecular weight reaches a threshold value and the polymer becomes soluble and diffuses outward, resulting in mass loss and decreasing cross-sectional area, which also contributes to the mechanical performance reduction of the device. A phenomenological approach, using the combination of continuum-based hydrolytic damage for the evolution of mechanical properties that depends on the stress field and further removal of the degraded element (to simulate mass loss) was used. Both elastoplastic and hyperelastic constitutive models were applied on this study, where the material model parameters locally depend on the molecular weight.