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Nonlinear Elasticity. Outline. Some basics of nonlinear elasticity Nonlinear elasticity of biopolymer networks Nematic elastomers. What is Elasticity. Description of distortions of rigid bodies and the energy, forces, and fluctuations arising from these distortions.

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Nonlinear elasticity

Nonlinear Elasticity

Princeton Elasticity Lectures


  • Some basics of nonlinear elasticity

  • Nonlinear elasticity of biopolymer networks

  • Nematic elastomers

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

What is elasticity
What is Elasticity

  • Description of distortions of rigid bodies and the energy, forces, and fluctuations arising from these distortions.

  • Describes mechanics of extended bodies from the macroscopic to the microscopic, from bridges to the cytoskeleton.

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Classical lagrangian description
Classical Lagrangian Description

Reference material in D dimensions described by a continuum of mass points x. Neighbors of points do not change under distortion

Material distorted to new positions R(x)

Cauchy deformation tensor

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Linear and nonlinear elasticity
Linear and Nonlinear Elasticity

Linear: Small deformations – L near 1

Nonlinear: Large deformations – L >>1

  • Why nonlinear?

  • Systems can undergo large deformations – rubbers, polymer networks , …

  • Non-linear theory needed to understand properties of statically strained materials

  • Non-linearities can renormalize nature of elasticity

  • Elegant an complex theory of interest in its own right

  • Why now:

  • New interest in biological materials under large strain

  • Liquid crystal elastomers – exotic nonlinear behavior

  • Old subject but difficult to penetrate – worth a fresh look

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Deformations and strain
Deformations and Strain

Complete information about shape of body in R(x)= x +u(x);

u= const. – translation no energy.

No energy cost unless u(x) varies in space.

For slow variations, use the Cauchy deformation tensor

Volume preserving stretch along z-axis

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Simple shear strain
Simple shear strain

Constant Volume, but note stretching of sides originally along x or y.

Note: L is not symmetric


Not equivalent to

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Pure shear
Pure Shear

Pure shear: symmetric deformation tensor with unit determinant – equivalent to stretch along 45 deg.

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Pure shear as stretch
Pure shear as stretch

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Pure to simple shear
Pure to simple shear

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Cauchy saint venant strain
Cauchy Saint-Venant Strain

R=Reference space

T=Target space

uab is invariant under rotations in the target space but transforms as a tensor under rotations in the reference space. It contains no information about orientation of object.


Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Elastic energy
Elastic energy

The elastic energy should be invariant under rigid rotations in the target space: if is a function of uab.

This energy is automatically invariant under rotations in target space. It must also be invariant under the point-group operations of the reference space. These place constraints on the form of the elastic constants.

Note there can be a linear “stress”-like term. This can be removed (except for transverse random components) by redefinition of the reference space

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Elastic modulus tensor
Elastic modulus tensor

Kabcdis the elastic constant or elastic modulus tensor. It has inherent symmetry and symmetries of the reference space.

Isotropic system

Uniaxial (n = unit vector along uniaxial direction)

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Isotropic and uniaxial solid
Isotropic and Uniaxial Solid

Isotropic: free energy density f has two harmonic elastic constants

m = shear modulus;

B = bulk modulus

Uniaxial: five harmonic elastic constants

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Force and stress i
Force and stress I

external force density – vector in target space. The stress tensor sia is mixed. This is the engineering or 1st Piola-Kirchhoff stress tensor = force per area of reference space. It is not necessarily symmetric!

sabIIis thesecond Piola-Kirchhoff stress tensor - symmetric

Note: In a linearized theory, sia = siaII

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Cauchy stress
Cauchy stress

The Cauchy stress is the familiar force per unit area in the target space. It is a symmetric tensor in the target space.

Symmetric as required

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Coupling to other fields
Coupling to other fields

We are often interested in the coupling of target-space vectors like an electric field or the nematic director to elastic strain. How is this done? The strain tensor uab is a scalar in the target space, and it can only couple to target-space scalars, not vectors.

Answer lies in the polar decomposition theorem

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Target reference conversion
Target-reference conversion

To linear order in u, Oia has a term proportional to the antisymmetric part of the strain matrix.

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Strain and rotation
Strain and Rotation

Simple Shear

Symmetric shear


Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Sample couplings
Sample couplings

Coupling of electric field to strain

Free energy no longer depends on the strain uab only. The electric field defines a direction in the target space as it should

Energy depends on both symmetric and anti-symmetric parts of h’

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Biopolymer networks
Biopolymer Networks

cortical actin gel

neurofilament network

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Characteristics of networks
Characteristics of Networks

  • Off Lattice

  • Complex links, semi-flexible rather than random-walk polymers

  • Locally randomly inhomogeneous and anisotropic but globally homogeneous and isotropic

  • Complex frequency-dependent rheology

  • Striking non-linear elasticity

Princeton Elasticity Lectures


  • Strain Hardening (more resistance to deformation with increasing strain) – physiological importance

  • Formalisms for treating nonlinear elasticity of random lattices

    • Affine approximation

    • Non-affine

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Different networks
Different Networks

Max strain ~.25 except for vimentin and NF

Max stretch:

L(L)/L~1.13 at 45 deg to normal

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Semi microscopic models
Semi-microscopic models

Random or periodic crosslinked network: Elastic energy resides in bonds (links or strands) connecting nodes

Rb = separation of nodes in bond b

Vb(| Rb |) = free energy of bond b

nb = Number of bonds per unit volume of reference lattice

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Affine transformations
Affine Transformations

Strained target network:


Reference network:

Positions R0

Depends only on uij

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Example rubber
Example: Rubber

Purely entropic force

Average is over the end-to-end separation in a random walk: random direction, Gaussian magnitude

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Rubber incompressible stretch
Rubber : Incompressible Stretch

Unstable: nonentropic forces between atoms needed to stabilize; Simply impose incompressibility constraint.

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Rubber stress strain
Rubber: stress -strain

AR= area in reference space

Engineering stress

Physical Stress

A = AR/L = Area in target space

Y=Young’s modulus

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

General case
General Case

Engineering stress: not symmetric

Central force

Physical Cauchy Stress: Symmetric

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Semi flexible stretchable link
Semi-flexible Stretchable Link

t = unit tangent

v = stretch

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Length force expressions
Length-force expressions

L(t,K) = equilibrium length at given t and K

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Force extension curves
Force-extension Curves

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Scaling at small strain
Scaling at “Small” Strain

Theoretical curve: calculated from


zero parameter fit to everything

G'/G' (0)


Princeton Elasticity Lectures

What are nematic gels
What are Nematic Gels?

  • Homogeneous Elastic media with broken rotational symmetry (uniaxial, biaxial)

  • Most interesting - systems with broken symmetry that develops spontaneously from a homogeneous, isotropic elastic state

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Examples of lc gels
Examples of LC Gels

1. Liquid Crystal Elastomers - Weakly crosslinked liquid crystal polymers



2. Tanaka gels with hard-rod dispersion

3. Anisotropic membranes

4. Glasses with orientational order

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Properties i
Properties I

  • Large thermoelastic effects - Large thermally induced strains - artificial muscles

Courtesy of

Eugene Terentjev

300% strain

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Properties ii
Properties II

Large strain in small

temperature range


Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Properties iii
Properties III

  • Soft or “Semi-soft” elasticity

Vanishing xz shear modulus

Soft stress-strain for stress

perpendicular to order

Warner Finkelmann

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Model for isotropic nematic trans
Model for Isotropic-Nematic trans.

m approaches zero signals a transition to a nematic state with a nonvanishing

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Spontaneous symmetry breaking
Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking

Phase transition to anisotropic

state asmgoes to zero

Direction ofn0is





Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Strain of new phase
Strain of New Phase

u’ is the strain relative to the new state at pointsx’

duis the deviation of

the strain relative to the original reference frameR fromu0

duis linearly proportional


Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Elasticity of new phase
Elasticity of New Phase

Rotation of anisotropy

direction costs no energy

C5=0 because of

rotational invariance

This 2nd order expansion

is invariant under all U

but only infinitesimal V

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Soft extensional elasticity
Soft Extensional Elasticity

Strain uxx can be converted to a zero energy rotation by developing strains uzz and uxzuntil uxx =(r-1)/2

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Frozen anisotropy semi soft
Frozen anisotropy: Semi-soft

System is now uniaxial – why not simply use uniaxial elastic energy? This predicts linear stress-stain curve and misses lowering of energy by reorientation:

Model Uniaxial system:

Produces harmonic uniaxial energy for small strain but has nonlinear terms – reduces to isotropic when h=0

f (u) : isotropic


Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Semi soft stress strain
Semi-soft stress-strain

Ward Identity

Second Piola-Kirchoff stress tensor.

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Semi soft extensions
Semi-soft Extensions

Break rotational symmetry

Stripes form in real systems: semi-soft, BC

Not perfectly soft because of residual anisotropy arising from crosslinking in the the nematic phase - semi-soft. length of plateau depends on magnitude of spontaneous anisotropyr.


Note: Semi-softness only visible in nonlinear properties

Finkelmann, et al., J. Phys. II 7, 1059 (1997);

Warner, J. Mech. Phys. Solids 47, 1355 (1999)

Princeton Elasticity Lectures

Softness with director
Softness with Director

Na= unit vector along uniaxial direction in reference space; layer normal in a locked SmA phase

Red: SmA-SmC transition

Director relaxes to zero

Princeton Elasticity Lectures