A finite element analysis is used to study a previously unresolved issue of the effects of platen-specimen friction on the response of the unconfined compression test; effects of platen permeability are also determined. The finite element formulation is based on the linear KLM biphasic model for articular cartilage and other hydrated soft tissues. A Galerkin weighted residual method is applied to both the solid phase and the fluid phase, and the continuity equation for the intrinsically incompressible binary mixture is introduced via a penalty method. The solid phase displacements and fluid phase velocities are interpolated for each element in terms of unknown nodal values, producing a system of first order differential equations which are solved using a standard numerical finite difference technique. An axisymmetric element of quadrilateral cross-section is developed and applied to the mechanical test problem of a cylindrical specimen of soft tissue in unconfined compression. These studies show that interfacial friction plays a major role in the unconfined compression response of articular cartilage specimens with small thickness to diameter ratios.

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