Self-Ordering of Buckling, Bending, and Bumping Beams

A Guerra and AC Slim and DP Holmes and O Kodio, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 130, 148201 (2023).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.130.148201

A collection of thin structures buckle, bend, and bump into each other when confined. This contact can lead to the formation of patterns: hair will self-organize in curls; DNA strands will layer into cell nuclei; paper, when crumpled, will fold in on itself, forming a maze of interleaved sheets. This pattern formation changes how densely the structures can pack, as well as the mechanical properties of the system. How and when these patterns form, as well as the force required to pack these structures is not currently understood. Here we study the emergence of order in a canonical example of packing in slender structures, i.e., a system of parallel confined elastic beams. Using tabletop experiments, simulations, and standard theory from statistical mechanics, we predict the amount of confinement (growth or compression) of the beams that will guarantee a global system order, which depends only on the initial geometry of the system. Furthermore, we find that the compressive stiffness and stored bending energy of this metamaterial are directly proportional to the number of beams that are geometrically frustrated at any given point. We expect these results to elucidate the mechanisms leading to pattern formation in these kinds of systems and to provide a new mechanical metamaterial, with a tunable resistance to compressive force.

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