It is of great clinical importance to predict the behaviour of the cornea in various diseases and post-surgical recovery. Therefore, a numerical model that is able to simulate the corneal behaviour, considering corneal material properties obtained from individuals is highly desirable. In this work a combined numerical-experimental technique has been developed that can characterize the mechanical properties of a cornea properties from two aspects: time-dependency and spatial variation. Initially, an analysis of the material properties of porcine corneas was performed to investigate the time-dependent behaviour of the cornea. A simple stress relaxation test was used to determine the viscoelastic properties of a cornea and a rheological model was built based on the Generalized Maxwell (GM) approach. A validation experiment using nano-indentation showed that an isotropic GM model was insufficient for describing the corneal time-dependent behaviour when exposed to a complex stress state. A technique was proposed that takes into account the microstructural composition of the cornea and is based on a combination of nano-indentation experiment, isotropic and transversely isotropic numerical models, and an inverse finite element method. The good agreement using this method suggests that this is a promising technique for measuring the time-dependent properties of the cornea. The spatial variation of the properties was then investigated. This time, the long term structural response of the cornea was targeted. A full field displacement response of a loaded cornea was evaluated from Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) volume reconstructions of the cornea using Digital Volume Correlation (DVC). The inverse finite element method was employed with two models sequentially; first, a radially partitioned model and then a circumferentially partitioned model, in order to recover the elastic parameters in radial and circumferential directions. The good agreement using this method suggests that this is a promising and reliable technique for identifying the distribution of the corneal properties.
In this research, we have shown that it is possible to determine the local time-dependent properties of the cornea and the in-depth (2D) distribution of the properties using the hybrid technique. This technique has the potential to be implemented in vivo. However, further work should focus on the feasibility of this technique in practice.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.