The transient, dynamic response of soft materials to mechanical impact has become increasingly relevant due to the emergence of numerous biomedical applications, e.g., accurate assessment of blunt injuries to the human body. Despite these important implications, acceleration-induced pressure gradients in soft materials during impact and the corresponding material response, from small deformations to sudden bubble bursts, are not fully understood. Both through experiments and theoretical analyses, we empirically show, using collagen and agarose model systems, that the local pressure in a soft sample is proportional to the square of the sample depth in the impact direction. The critical acceleration that corresponds to bubble bursts increases with increasing gel stiffness. Bubble bursts are also highly sensitive to the initial bubble size, e.g., bubble bursts can occur only when the initial bubble diameter is smaller than a critical size (≈10 μm). Our study gives fundamental insight into the physics of injury mechanisms, from blunt trauma to cavitation-induced brain injury.
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