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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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.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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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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