Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering Seminar


Surface Tension and the Mechanics of Soft Solids


Dr. Eric Dufresne


Yale University


Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 2:00:00 PM


MRDC Building, Room 4211


Lula Chong Baker


The standard models of solid mechanics were developed to describe the behavior of stiff materials. However, the rise of polymers, mechanobiology, soft robotics, and flexible electronics have driven broad interest in the mechanics of ‘soft’ solids. Our recent experiments demonstrate that the deformation of soft solid surfaces cannot be described by classic elastic models, even when the loadings are static and the response of the material is linear. We will consider Eshelby’s theory of composites and Johnson-Kendall-Roberts’ theory of adhesion. Both models fail when Young’s moduli drop below a size-dependent scale. However, we are able to quantitatively capture the essential features of our experiments by accounting for solid surface tension. While surface tension drives subtle changes to phenomena in stiffer solids, it fundamentally alters our interpretation of experiments on soft solid surfaces.


Eric Dufresne is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and the Director of the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design at Yale University. Eric’s research group is focused on experimental soft matter, with a current emphasis on mechanics and self-assembly in synthetic and biological systems. Before coming to Yale, Eric earned his Ph.D. with David Grier at the University of Chicago in 2000, started a company, worked as a management consultant and did a post-doc with David Weitz at Harvard.


Refreshments will be served.