(78b) Water Diffusion through Hydrogel Membranes. a Novel Evaporation Cell Free of External Mass-Transfer Resistance
A novel evaporative cell is used to measure steady-state diffusion rates of water through hydrogel membranes in the absence of external mass-transfer resistance. In this cell, the bottom surface of a hydrogel membrane is exposed to pure water vapor at known activity less than unity, while sealed a liquid water reservoir bathes the upper membrane surface. Induced by the chemical-potential gradient between the two surfaces, the water evaporation rate is monitored by the rate of weight loss of the water reservoir.
Results at ambient temperature are compared with those from measured water flux through soft-contact-lens (SCL) materials and with other published experimental results. Concentration-dependent water diffusivities are obtained by interpreting measured water fluxes for 0.11 ?T aw ?T 0.93 with extended Maxwell-Stefan (EMS) diffusion theory. Thermodynamic non-ideality is taken into account through Flory-Rehner polymer-solution theory. Shrinking/swelling is modeled by conservation of the total polymer mass assuming volume additivity. In spite of correction for thermodynamic nonideality, EMS-water-diffusion coefficients increase with the water volume fraction, especially for those hydrogel materials with low liquid-saturated water contents. The evaporation cell described here provides a simple robust method to establish water transport rates through soft contact lenses and other hydrogel membranes without the necessity to correct for external mass-transfer resistance.