Tearing as a test for mechanical characterization of thin adhesive films

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Thin adhesive films have become increasingly important in applications involving packaging, coating or for advertising. Once a film is adhered to a substrate, flaps can be detached by tearing and peeling, but they narrow and collapse in pointy shapes. Similar geometries are observed when peeling ultrathin films grown or deposited on a solid substrate, or skinning the natural protective cover of a ripe fruit. Here, we show that the detached flaps have perfect triangular shapes with a well-defined vertex angle; this is a signature of the conversion of bending energy into surface energy of fracture and adhesion. In particular, this triangular shape of the tear encodes the mechanical parameters related to these three forms of energy and could form the basis of a quantitative assay for the mechanical characterization of thin adhesive films, nanofilms deposited on substrates or fruit skin.

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Figure 1: Three rectangular flaps of adhesive film were cut and pulled at the same speed, and the resulting tears were digitally scanned.
Figure 2: Schematic diagram showing the side and top views of the experiment and the geometrical parameters involved to describe the shape of the tear.
Figure 3: Force versus width for different materials and substrates.
Figure 4: The angle of tearing for experiments with three different materials.
Figure 5: Value of the parameter η extracted from the experiments.


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We thank the Chicago–Chile Material Collaboration Project (DMR-0303072), Ecos-Conicyt project No. C03E04 and are grateful for the help of Francisco Melo in whose laboratory this experiment was carried out. This article was also greatly improved by comments from M. Adda-Bedia, B. Audoly, A. Boudaoud, F. Melo and K. Niklas. E.H. and E.C. acknowledge FONDAP Grant No. 11980002 for financial support. E.C. acknowledges the support of Anillo ACT 15, Fondecyt Project No. 1050083 and thanks Mauricio Cerda for help with the computer software. B.R. acknowledges support from the French ministry of research—ACI ‘structures minces’, and PMR from the European funding MechPlant.

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Correspondence to Enrique Cerda.

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