Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Deformation


Under high-strain-rate compression (strain rate approximately 10(3) s(-1)), nacre (mother-of-pearl) exhibits surprisingly high fracture strength vis-à-vis under quasi-static loading (strain rate 10(-3) s(-1)). Nevertheless, the underlying mechanism responsible for such sharply different behaviors in these two loading modes remains completely unknown. Here we report a new deformation mechanism, adopted by nacre, the best-ever natural armor material, to protect itself against predatory penetrating impacts. It involves the emission of partial dislocations and the onset of deformation twinning that operate in a well-concerted manner to contribute to the increased high-strain-rate fracture strength of nacre. Our findings unveil that Mother Nature delicately uses an ingenious strain-rate-dependent stiffening mechanism with a purpose to fight against foreign attacks. These findings should serve as critical design guidelines for developing engineered body armor materials.

Concepts: Materials science, Nature, Young's modulus, Solid mechanics, The Onset, Nacre, Aragonite, Deformation


ABSTRACT Viscoelastic deformation of the contact volume between adhering bacteria and substratum surfaces plays a role in their adhesion and detachment. Currently, there are no deformation models that account for the heterogeneous structure and composition of bacteria, consisting of a relatively soft outer layer and a more rigid, hard core enveloped by a cross-linked peptidoglycan layer. The aim of this paper is to present a new, simple model to derive the reduced Young’s modulus of the contact volume between adhering bacteria and substratum surfaces based on the relationship between deformation and applied external loading force, measured using atomic force microscopy. The model assumes that contact is established through a cylinder with constant volume and does not require assumptions on the properties and dimensions of the contact cylinder. The reduced Young’s moduli obtained (8 to 47 kPa) and dimensions of the contact cylinders could be interpreted on the basis of the cell surface features and cell wall characteristics, i.e., surfaces that are more rigid (because of either less fibrillation, less extracellular polymeric substance production, or a higher degree of cross-linking of the peptidoglycan layer) had shorter contact cylinders and higher reduced Young’s moduli. Application of an existing Hertz model to our experimental data yielded reduced Young’s moduli that were up to 100 times higher for all strains investigated, likely because the Hertz model pertains to a major extent to the more rigid peptidoglycan layer and not only to the soft outer bacterial cell surface, involved in the bond between a bacterium and a substratum surface. IMPORTANCE The viscoelastic properties of the bond between an adhering bacterium and a substratum surface play a role in determining bacterial detachment. For instance, removal of an oral biofilm proceeds according to a viscoelastic failure model, and biofilm left behind after toothbrushing has been found to possess expanded bond lengths between adhering bacteria due to viscoelastic deformation. Current elastic deformation models are unable to distinguish between the soft outer bacterial cell surface and the hard core of a bacterium, enveloped by a peptidoglycan layer. Therefore, here we present a simple model to calculate the Young’s modulus and deformation of the contact volume between an adhering bacterium and a substratum surface that accounts for the heterogeneous structure of a bacterium.

Concepts: Archaea, Bacteria, Cell membrane, Cell wall, Bacterial cell structure, Peptidoglycan, Young's modulus, Deformation


Strain hardening capability is critical for metallic materials to achieve high ductility during plastic deformation. A majority of nanocrystalline metals, however, have inherently low work hardening capability with few exceptions. Interpretations on work hardening mechanisms in nanocrystalline metals are still controversial due to the lack of in situ experimental evidence. Here we report, by using an in situ transmission electron microscope nanoindentation tool, the direct observation of dynamic work hardening event in nanocrystalline nickel. During strain hardening stage, abundant Lomer-Cottrell (L-C) locks formed both within nanograins and against twin boundaries. Two major mechanisms were identified during interactions between L-C locks and twin boundaries. Quantitative nanoindentation experiments recorded show an increase of yield strength from 1.64 to 2.29 GPa during multiple loading-unloading cycles. This study provides both the evidence to explain the roots of work hardening at small length scales and the insight for future design of ductile nanocrystalline metals.

Concepts: Metal, Solid mechanics, Nickel, Metalworking, Work hardening, Deformation, Dislocation, Ductility


The elastoplastic deformation behaviors of hollow glass microspheres/iron syntactic foam under tension were modeled using a representative volume element (RVE) approach. The three-dimensional microstructures of the iron syntactic foam with 5 wt % glass microspheres were reconstructed using the random sequential adsorption algorithm. The constitutive behavior of the elastoplasticity in the iron matrix and the elastic-brittle failure for the glass microsphere were simulated in the models. An appropriate RVE size was statistically determined by evaluating elastic modulus, Poisson’s ratio, and yield strength in terms of model sizes and boundary conditions. The model was validated by the agreement with experimental findings. The tensile deformation mechanism of the syntactic foam considering the fracture of the microspheres was then investigated. In addition, the feasibility of introducing the interfacial deboning behavior to the proposed model was briefly investigated to improve the accuracy in depicting fracture behaviors of the syntactic foam. It is thought that the modeling techniques and the model itself have major potential for applications not only in the study of hollow glass microspheres/iron syntactic foams, but also for the design of composites with a high modulus matrix and high strength reinforcement.

Concepts: Tensile strength, Young's modulus, Elasticity, Solid mechanics, Hooke's law, Deformation, Glass microsphere, Syntactic foam


In the United States over 1.7 million cases of traumatic brain injury are reported yearly, but predictive correlation of cellular injury to impact tissue strain is still lacking, particularly for neuronal injury resulting from compression. Given the prevalence of compressive deformations in most blunt head trauma, this information is critically important for the development of future mitigation and diagnosis strategies. Using a 3D in vitro neuronal compression model, we investigated the role of impact strain and strain rate on neuronal lifetime, viability, and pathomorphology. We find that strain magnitude and rate have profound, yet distinctively different effects on the injury pathology. While strain magnitude affects the time of neuronal death, strain rate influences the pathomorphology and extent of population injury. Cellular injury is not initiated through localized deformation of the cytoskeleton but rather driven by excess strain on the entire cell. Furthermore we find that, mechanoporation, one of the key pathological trigger mechanisms in stretch and shear neuronal injuries, was not observed under compression.

Concepts: Time, Brain, Pathology, Traumatic brain injury, Injuries, Injury, Concussion, Deformation


The strength of olivine at low temperatures and high stresses in Earth’s lithospheric mantle exerts a critical control on many geodynamic processes, including lithospheric flexure and the formation of plate boundaries. Unfortunately, laboratory-derived values of the strength of olivine at lithospheric conditions are highly variable and significantly disagree with those inferred from geophysical observations. We demonstrate via nanoindentation that the strength of olivine depends on the length scale of deformation, with experiments on smaller volumes of material exhibiting larger yield stresses. This “size effect” resolves discrepancies among previous measurements of olivine strength using other techniques. It also corroborates the most recent flow law for olivine, which proposes a much weaker lithospheric mantle than previously estimated, thus bringing experimental measurements into closer alignment with geophysical constraints. Further implications include an increased difficulty of activating plasticity in cold, fine-grained shear zones and an impact on the evolution of fault surface roughness due to the size-dependent deformation of nanometer- to micrometer-sized asperities.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Lithosphere, Materials science, Solid mechanics, Deformation, Mantle, Asthenosphere


Strain engineering is widely used in material science to tune the (opto-)electronic properties of materials and enhance the performance of devices. Two-dimensional atomic crystals are a versatile playground to study the influence of strain, as they can sustain very large deformations without breaking. Various optical techniques have been employed to probe strain in two-dimensional materials, including micro-Raman and photoluminescence spectroscopy. Here we demonstrate that optical second harmonic generation constitutes an even more powerful technique, as it allows extraction of the full strain tensor with a spatial resolution below the optical diffraction limit. Our method is based on the strain-induced modification of the nonlinear susceptibility tensor due to a photoelastic effect. Using a two-point bending technique, we determine the photoelastic tensor elements of molybdenum disulfide. Once identified, these parameters allow us to spatially image the two-dimensional strain field in an inhomogeneously strained sample.

Concepts: Diffraction, Optics, Fundamental physics concepts, Laser, Materials science, Nonlinear optics, Deformation, Angular resolution


Spider silks possess nature’s most exceptional mechanical properties, with unrivalled extensibility and high tensile strength. Unfortunately, our understanding of silks is limited because the complete elastic response has never been measured-leaving a stark lack of essential fundamental information. Using non-invasive, non-destructive Brillouin light scattering, we obtain the entire stiffness tensors (revealing negative Poisson’s ratios), refractive indices, and longitudinal and transverse sound velocities for major and minor ampullate spider silks: Argiope aurantia, Latrodectus hesperus, Nephila clavipes, Peucetia viridans. These results completely quantify the linear elastic response for all possible deformation modes, information unobtainable with traditional stress-strain tests. For completeness, we apply the principles of Brillouin imaging to spatially map the elastic stiffnesses on a spider web without deforming or disrupting the web in a non-invasive, non-contact measurement, finding variation among discrete fibres, junctions and glue spots. Finally, we provide the stiffness changes that occur with supercontraction.

Concepts: Scattering, Tensile strength, Young's modulus, Elasticity, Elastic modulus, Spider silk, Spider, Deformation


Arapaima gigas, a fresh water fish found in the Amazon Basin, resist predation by piranhas through the strength and toughness of their scales, which act as natural dermal armour. Arapaima scales consist of a hard, mineralized outer shell surrounding a more ductile core. This core region is composed of aligned mineralized collagen fibrils arranged in distinct lamellae. Here we show how the Bouligand-type (twisted plywood) arrangement of collagen fibril lamellae has a key role in developing their unique protective properties, by using in situ synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering during mechanical tensile tests to observe deformation mechanisms in the fibrils. Specifically, the Bouligand-type structure allows the lamellae to reorient in response to the loading environment; remarkably, most lamellae reorient towards the tensile axis and deform in tension through stretching/sliding mechanisms, whereas other lamellae sympathetically rotate away from the tensile axis and compress, thereby enhancing the scale’s ductility and toughness to prevent fracture.

Concepts: Continuum mechanics, Tensile strength, Amazon River, Freshwater fish, Amazon Basin, Work hardening, Deformation, Plastic deformation in solids


OBJECTIVE: To assess step by step the associated cumulative damage introduced in zirconia veneered restorations after long term cyclic loading using a new multi-level strain accommodating loading protocol. METHODS: 40 zirconia veneered crowns received thermal and cyclic loading (3.5 million cycles at maximum load of 25kg representing 70% of the critical load of the veneer ceramic). The used loading protocol allowed for reproduction of the combined damping action of the periodontal ligament, food substance, jaw deformation, and free movement of the mandibular joint. Speed of load application and release was obtained from the chewing cycle of adult patients. Principles of fractographic analysis were used to study the behavior and origin of critical crack and associated structural damage. RESULTS: The multi-level strain damping effect prevented generation of cone cracks and contact damage under the loading indenter commonly associated with fracture strength tests. 29 specimens (73%) survived 3.5 million cycles without fracture, 9 specimens (22%) demonstrated cohesive fracture of the veneer ceramic and limited axial fracture of the framework was observed in two specimens (5%). Of all fractured specimens, 2 restorations (5%) failed after 500,000 cycles while the rest survived at least 3 million cycles before fracture was observed. Fractographic analysis revealed initial wear and abrasion below the loading area, subsurface micro-cracking of the glass matrix followed by slow crack growth that traveled in a stepping pattern till deflection at zirconia veneer interface. SIGNIFICANCE: Cyclic loading using multi-level strain accommodating model can reproduce clinical failure. With exception to manufacturing errors, zirconia veneered restoration survived a simulated 7-year service time without fracture.

Concepts: Fracture, Periodontology, Term, Ligament, Solid mechanics, Cycle, Deformation, Critical load