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Nested self-similar wrinkling patterns in skins

Abstract

Stiff thin films on soft substrates are both ancient and commonplace in nature; for instance, animal skin comprises a stiff epidermis attached to a soft dermis. Although more recent and rare, artificial skins are increasingly used in a broad range of applications, including flexible electronics1, tunable diffraction gratings2,3, force spectroscopy in cells4, modern metrology methods5, and other devices6,7,8. Here we show that model elastomeric artificial skins wrinkle in a hierarchical pattern consisting of self-similar buckles extending over five orders of magnitude in length scale, ranging from a few nanometres to a few millimetres. We provide a mechanism for the formation of this hierarchical wrinkling pattern, and quantify our experimental findings with both computations and a simple scaling theory. This allows us to harness the substrates for applications. In particular, we show how to use the multigeneration-wrinkled substrate for separating particles based on their size, while simultaneously forming linear chains of monodisperse particles.

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Figure 1: Optical microscopy images taken in the transmission mode.
Figure 2: Characterization of the nested hierarchy of buckles.
Figure 3: Results of a finite element simulation of the skin + substrate system.
Figure 4: Scaled buckle amplitude (ζ/Δ½) plotted as a function of the buckle period (λ) on a log–log plot.
Figure 5: Utilization of buckled substrates as microfluidic sieves.

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Acknowledgements

The work was supported by the grants from the Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation (J.G.), the NER Program at the National Science Foundation (J.G., E.M.), and the Office of Naval Research (J.G., L.M.). We thank O.D. Velev for fruitful discussions.

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Correspondence to L. Mahadevan or Jan Genzer.

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Efimenko, K., Rackaitis, M., Manias, E. et al. Nested self-similar wrinkling patterns in skins. Nature Mater 4, 293–297 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat1342

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