A device and method have been developed to conduct compression and tensile tests on soft materials such as flocculated sediments, biopolymers, biological materials, and food stuffs. The device facilitates compression tests of small particles in the 10- to 5,000-micron range in the exact aqueous environmental conditions (e.g. pH, salinity, elevation) in which the sample is typically found. The device enables real-time imaging of the deformation process, and is compatible with a variety of commercially available test frames and load cells.
The system is faster and operates on much smaller sample sizes than alternative solutions such as test flumes and cone penetrometers. The results of the measurement have great utility in discrete element models of fine-grain sediment transport to assess integrity of levees, embankments, and other structures. Other applications include biomechanical studies of tissues and composites, as well as testing of food items and cosmetics.
The test cell design enhances test accuracy, and the magnified viewports facilitate rapid sample alignment and enable the ready capture of video or still photography in order to provide additional data sources.
Real-time videography and photography of samples under compression or extension can be captured via built-in magnifying and clear windows; still and video captures can be analyzed later to address force curve changes.