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Topography-driven surface renewal


Natural surfaces excel in self-renewal and preventing bio-fouling, while synthetic materials placed in contact with complex fluids quickly foul1,2. We present a novel biophysics-inspired mechanism3,4 for surface renewal using actuating surface topography, generated by wrinkling. We calculate a critical surface curvature, given by an intrinsic characteristic length scale of the fouling layer that accounts for its effective flexural or bending stiffness and adhesion energy, beyond which surface renewal occurs. The effective bending stiffness includes the elasticity and thickness of the fouling patch, but also the boundary layer depth of the imposed wrinkled topography. The analytical scaling laws are validated using finite-element simulations and physical experiments. Our data span over five orders of magnitude in critical curvatures and are well normalized by the analytically calculated scaling. Moreover, our numerics suggests an energy-release mechanism whereby stored elastic energy in the fouling layer drives surface renewal. The strategy is broadly applicable to any surface with tunable topography and fouling layers with elastic response.

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Fig. 1: Representative images of wrinkling surfaces in various biologic systems.
Fig. 2: Representative images near A ~ Ac for the thin-patch limit and thick-patch limit, for experimental soft silicone patches on wrinkling surfaces and finite-element simulations.
Fig. 3: Critical amplitudes and normalized critical amplitudes as functions of adhesion energy, patch thickness and wavelength.
Fig. 4: Energy release rate as a function of the dimensionless fracture length l/λ.
Fig. 5: Pieces of soft silicone are placed onto initially flat bilayer surfaces.


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L.P. thanks the American College of Surgeons for support via ACS fellowship no. 709532. S.V. thanks the ACS-PRF grant 533-86-ND7 and NSF grant 561789 for funding. E.C. thanks the Fondecyt grant no. 1161098. E.T. thanks Veterans Affairs Merit I0 BX000635; the contents of this manuscript do not represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs or the United States Government. L.P., S.V. and E.T. thank the University of Pittsburgh Center for Medical Innovation for support via CMI grant no. F-123-2015.

Author contributions

L.P. performed experimental, theoretical and numerical work, paper writing and project management. E.C. performed experimental, theoretical and numerical work and paper writing. S.V. performed experimental work and paper writing. J.P. and R.O. performed experimental work. E.T. performed project planning and paper writing. S.Y. and W.W. performed project planning.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Luka Pocivavsek.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information, Supplementary Figures S1–S4, Supplementary References S1–S8

Supplementary Video 1

Experiments in the thin patch regime. The patches follow the topography coming from the wrinkling surface up to a critical point where they delaminate into less curved blisters several times the length of the wavelength.

Supplementary Video 2

Experiments in the thick patch regime. The patch is deformed locally nearly the wrinkling interface but does not globally bend. Once delamination occurs the patch remains globally flat.

Supplementary Video 3

Simulations in the thin patch regime. The patches follow the topography coming from the wrinkling surface up to a critical point where they delaminate into less curved blisters several times the length of the wavelength.

Supplementary Video 4

Simulations in the thick patch regime. The patch is deformed locally nearly the wrinkling interface but does not globally bend. Once delamination occurs the patch remains globally flat.

Supplementary Video 5

Simulations in the thick patch regime. The patch is deformed locally nearly the wrinkling interface but does not globally bend. Once delamination occurs the patch remains globally flat.

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Pocivavsek, L., Pugar, J., O’Dea, R. et al. Topography-driven surface renewal. Nature Phys 14, 948–953 (2018).

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