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

Concept: Linear elasticity


Smart hydrogels, or stimuli-responsive hydrogels, are three-dimensional networks composed of crosslinked hydrophilic polymer chains that are able to dramatically change their volume and other properties in response to environmental stimuli such as temperature, pH and certain chemicals. Rapid and significant response to environmental stimuli and high elasticity are critical for the versatility of such smart hydrogels. Here we report the synthesis of smart hydrogels which are rapidly responsive, highly swellable and stretchable, by constructing a nano-structured architecture with activated nanogels as nano-crosslinkers. The nano-structured smart hydrogels show very significant and rapid stimuli-responsive characteristics, as well as highly elastic properties to sustain high compressions, resist slicing and withstand high level of deformation, such as bending, twisting and extensive stretching. Because of the concurrent rapid and significant stimuli-response and high elasticity, these nano-structured smart hydrogels may expand the scope of hydrogel applications, and provide enhanced performance in their applications.

Concepts: Price elasticity of demand, Linear elasticity, Stiffness


We report the synthesis and application of an elastic, wearable crosslinked polymer layer (XPL) that mimics the properties of normal, youthful skin. XPL is made of a tunable polysiloxane-based material that can be engineered with specific elasticity, contractility, adhesion, tensile strength and occlusivity. XPL can be topically applied, rapidly curing at the skin interface without the need for heat- or light-mediated activation. In a pilot human study, we examined the performance of a prototype XPL that has a tensile modulus matching normal skin responses at low strain (<40%), and that withstands elongations exceeding 250%, elastically recoiling with minimal strain-energy loss on repeated deformation. The application of XPL to the herniated lower eyelid fat pads of 12 subjects resulted in an average 2-grade decrease in herniation appearance in a 5-point severity scale. The XPL platform may offer advanced solutions to compromised skin barrier function, pharmaceutical delivery and wound dressings.

Concepts: Skin, Materials science, Tensile strength, Strength of materials, Elasticity, Linear elasticity, Elastic modulus


The widespread prevalence of commercial products made from microgels illustrates the immense practical value of harnessing the jamming transition; there are countless ways to use soft, solid materials that fluidize and become solid again with small variations in applied stress. The traditional routes of microgel synthesis produce materials that predominantly swell in aqueous solvents or, less often, in aggressive organic solvents, constraining ways that these exceptionally useful materials can be used. For example, aqueous microgels have been used as the foundation of three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting applications, yet the incompatibility of available microgels with nonpolar liquids, such as oils, limits their use in 3D printing with oil-based materials, such as silicone. We present a method to make micro-organogels swollen in mineral oil, using block copolymer self-assembly. The rheological properties of this micro-organogel material can be tuned, leveraging the jamming transition to facilitate its use in 3D printing of silicone structures. We find that the minimum printed feature size can be controlled by the yield stress of the micro-organogel medium, enabling the fabrication of numerous complex silicone structures, including branched perfusable networks and functional fluid pumps.

Concepts: Polymer, Polymer chemistry, Liquid, Glass transition, Elasticity, Linear elasticity, Oil, Lubricant


Natural materials are renowned for exquisite designs that optimize function, as illustrated by the elasticity of blood vessels, the toughness of bone and the protection offered by nacre. Particularly intriguing are spider silks, with studies having explored properties ranging from their protein sequence to the geometry of a web. This material system, highly adapted to meet a spider’s many needs, has superior mechanical properties. In spite of much research into the molecular design underpinning the outstanding performance of silk fibres, and into the mechanical characteristics of web-like structures, it remains unknown how the mechanical characteristics of spider silk contribute to the integrity and performance of a spider web. Here we report web deformation experiments and simulations that identify the nonlinear response of silk threads to stress–involving softening at a yield point and substantial stiffening at large strain until failure–as being crucial to localize load-induced deformation and resulting in mechanically robust spider webs. Control simulations confirmed that a nonlinear stress response results in superior resistance to structural defects in the web compared to linear elastic or elastic-plastic (softening) material behaviour. We also show that under distributed loads, such as those exerted by wind, the stiff behaviour of silk under small deformation, before the yield point, is essential in maintaining the web’s structural integrity. The superior performance of silk in webs is therefore not due merely to its exceptional ultimate strength and strain, but arises from the nonlinear response of silk threads to strain and their geometrical arrangement in a web.

Concepts: Tensile strength, Elasticity, Linear elasticity, Silk, Spider silk, Spider, Spider web, Spinneret


A strategy to halt dissolution of particle-coated air bubbles in water based on interfacial rheology design is presented. Whereas previously a dense monolayer was believed to be required for such an “armored bubble” to resist dissolution, in fact engineering a 2D yield stress interface suffices to achieve such performance at submonolayer particle coverages. We use a suite of interfacial rheology techniques to characterize spherical and ellipsoidal particles at an air-water interface as a function of surface coverage. Bubbles with varying particle coverages are made and their resistance to dissolution evaluated using a microfluidic technique. Whereas a bare bubble only has a single pressure at which a given radius is stable, we find a range of pressures over which bubble dissolution is arrested for armored bubbles. The link between interfacial rheology and macroscopic dissolution of [Formula: see text] 100 [Formula: see text]m bubbles coated with [Formula: see text] 1 [Formula: see text]m particles is presented and discussed. The generic design rationale is confirmed by using nonspherical particles, which develop significant yield stress at even lower surface coverages. Hence, it can be applied to successfully inhibit Ostwald ripening in a multitude of foam and emulsion applications.

Concepts: Volume, Physical chemistry, Design, Elasticity, Linear elasticity, Yield surface


Microcantilever biosensors in the static operation mode translate molecular recognition into a surface stress signal. Surface stress is derived from the nanomechanical cantilever bending by applying Stoney’s equation, derived more than 100 years ago. This equation ignores the clamping effect on the cantilever deformation, which induces significant errors in the quantification of the biosensing response. This leads to discrepancies in the surface stress induced by biomolecular interactions in measurements with cantilevers with different sizes and geometries. So far, more accurate solutions have been precluded by the formidable complexity of the theoretical problem that involves solving the two-dimensional biharmonic equation. In this paper, we present an accurate and simple analytical expression to quantify the response of microcantilever biosensors. The equation exhibits an excellent agreement with finite element simulations and DNA immobilization experiments on gold-coated microcantilevers.

Concepts: Linear elasticity, Cantilever, Beam, Cantilever bridge, Fallingwater


In this work, we report experimental evidence of surface stress effects on the mechanical properties of silicon nanostructures. As-fabricated, top-down silicon nanowires (SiNWs) are bent up without any applied force. This self-buckling is related to the surface relaxation that reaches an equilibrium with bulk deformation due to the material elasticity. We measure the SiNW self-deformation by atomic force microscopy (AFM), and we apply a simple physical model in order to give an estimation of the surface stress. If the equilibrium is altered by a nanoforce, applied by an AFM tip, nanowires find a new equilibrium condition bending down (mechanical bistability). In this work, for the first time, we report a clear and quantitative relationship between the SiNWs' apparent Young’s modulus, measured by force-deflection spectroscopy, and the estimated value of surface stress, obtained by self-buckling measurements taking into account the Young’s modulus of bulk silicon. This is an experimental confirmation that the surface stress is fundamental in determining mechanical properties of SiNWs, and that the elastic behavior of nanostructures strongly depends on their surfaces.

Concepts: Measurement, Force, Young's modulus, Elasticity, Solid mechanics, Linear elasticity, Elastic modulus, Hooke's law


3D printing of polymeric foams by direct-ink-write is a recent technological breakthrough that enables the creation of versatile compressible solids with programmable microstructure, customizable shapes, and tunable mechanical response including negative elastic modulus. However, in many applications the success of these 3D printed materials as a viable replacement for traditional stochastic foams critically depends on their mechanical performance and micro-architectural stability while deployed under long-term mechanical strain. To predict the long-term performance of the two types of foams we employed multi-year-long accelerated aging studies under compressive strain followed by a time-temperature-superposition analysis using a minimum-arc-length-based algorithm. The resulting master curves predict superior long-term performance of the 3D printed foam in terms of two different metrics, i.e., compression set and load retention. To gain deeper understanding, we imaged the microstructure of both foams using X-ray computed tomography, and performed finite-element analysis of the mechanical response within these microstructures. This indicates a wider stress variation in the stochastic foam with points of more extreme local stress as compared to the 3D printed material, which might explain the latter’s improved long-term stability and mechanical performance.

Concepts: Medical imaging, Radiography, Tomographic reconstruction, Materials science, Inkjet printer, Elasticity, Linear elasticity, Silicone


Deformability while remaining viable is an important mechanical property of cells. Red blood cells (RBCs) deform considerably while flowing through small capillaries. The RBC membrane can withstand a finite strain, beyond which it ruptures. The classical yield areal strain of 2-4% for RBCs is generally accepted for a quasi-static strain. It has been noted previously that this threshold strain may be much larger with shorter exposure duration. Here we employ an impulse-like forcing to quantify this yield strain of RBC membranes. In the experiments, RBCs are stretched within tens of microseconds by a strong shear flow generated from a laser-induced cavitation bubble. The deformation of the cells in the strongly confined geometry is captured with a high-speed camera and viability is successively monitored with fluorescence microscopy. We find that the probability of cell survival is strongly dependent on the maximum strain. Above a critical areal strain of ∼40%, permanent membrane damage is observed for 50% of the cells. Interestingly, many of the cells do not rupture immediately and exhibit ghosting, but slowly obtain a round shape before they burst. This observation is explained with structural membrane damage leading to subnanometer-sized pores. The cells finally lyse from the colloidal osmotic pressure imbalance.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Blood, Cell membrane, Red blood cell, Tensile strength, Solid mechanics, Linear elasticity, Deformation


This paper presents a new registration framework for quantifying myocardial motion and strain from the combination of multiple 3D ultrasound (US) sequences. The originality of our approach lies in the estimation of the transformation directly from the input multiple views rather than from a single view or a reconstructed compounded sequence. This allows us to exploit all spatiotemporal information available in the input views avoiding occlusions and image fusion errors that could lead to some inconsistencies in the motion quantification result. We propose a multiview diffeomorphic registration strategy that enforces smoothness and consistency in the spatiotemporal domain by modeling the 4D velocity field continuously in space and time. This 4D continuous representation considers 3D US sequences as a whole, therefore allowing to robustly cope with variations in heart rate resulting in different number of images acquired per cardiac cycle for different views. This contributes to the robustness gained by solving for a single transformation from all input sequences. The similarity metric takes into account the physics of US images and uses a weighting scheme to balance the contribution of the different views. It includes a comparison both between consecutive images and between a reference and each of the following images. The strain tensor is computed locally using the spatial derivatives of the reconstructed displacement fields. Registration and strain accuracy were evaluated on synthetic 3D US sequences with known ground truth. Experiments were also conducted on multiview 3D datasets of 8 volunteers and 1 patient treated by cardiac resynchronization therapy. Strain curves obtained from our multiview approach were compared to the single-view case, as well as with other multiview approaches. For healthy cases, the inclusion of several views improved the consistency of the strain curves and reduced the number of segments where a non-physiological strain pattern was observed. For the patient, the improvement (pacing ON vs. OFF) in synchrony of regional strain correlated with clinician blind assessment and could be seen more clearly when using the multiview approach.

Concepts: Better, Physics, Cardiology, Heart, Continuum mechanics, Computer graphics, Linear elasticity, Infinitesimal strain theory