Finite indentation of highly curved elastic shells

Simon Pearce, John King, Tina Steinbrecher, Gerhard Leubner-Metzger, Nicola Everitt, Mike Holdsworth

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Experimentally measuring the elastic properties of thin biological surfaces is non-trivial, particularly when they are curved. One technique that may be used is the indentation of a thin sheet of material by a rigid indenter, while measuring the applied force and displacement. This gives immediate information on the fracture strength of the material (from the force required to puncture), but it is also theoretically possible to determine the elastic properties by comparing the resulting force–displacement curves with a mathematical model. Existing mathematical studies generally assume that the elastic surface is initially flat, which is often not the case for biological membranes. We previously outlined a theory for the indentation of curved isotropic, incompressible, hyperelastic membranes (with no bending stiffness) which breaks down for highly curved surfaces, as the entire membrane becomes wrinkled. Here, we introduce the effect of bending stiffness, ensuring that energy is required to change the shell shape without stretching, and find that commonly neglected terms in the shell equilibrium equation must be included. The theory presented here allows for the estimation of shape- and size-independent elastic properties of highly curved surfaces via indentation experiments, and is particularly relevant for biological surfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical & Engineering Sciences
Issue number2209
Early online date24 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

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