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J. Appl. Mech. 2018;85(7):071001-071001-11. doi:10.1115/1.4039622.

Understanding the buckling and post-buckling behavior of rods confined in a finite space is of both scientific and engineering significance. Under uniaxial compression, an initially straight and slender rod confined in a tube may buckle into a sinusoidal shape and subsequently evolve into a complicated, three-dimensional (3D) helical shape. In this paper, we combine theoretical and numerical methods to investigate the post-buckling behavior of confined rods. Two theoretical models, which are based on the inextensible and extensible rod theories, respectively, are proposed to derive the analytical expressions for the axial compressive stiffness in the sinusoidal post-buckling stage. The former is concise in formulation and can be easily applied in engineering, while the latter works well in a broader scope of post-buckling analysis. Both methods can give a good approximation to the sinusoidal post-buckling stiffness and the former model is proved to be a zeroth-order approximation of the latter. The flexible multibody dynamics method based on the Timoshenko's geometrically exact beam theory is used to examine the accuracy of the two models. The methods presented in this work can be used in, for example, drilling engineering in oil and gas industries.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Appl. Mech. 2018;85(7):071002-071002-9. doi:10.1115/1.4039815.

Soft network materials constructed with horseshoe microstructures represent a class of bio-inspired synthetic materials that can be tailored precisely to match the nonlinear, J-shaped, stress–strain curves of human skins. Under a large level of stretching, the nonlinear deformations associated with the drastic changes of microstructure geometries can lead to an evident mechanical anisotropy, even for honeycomb and triangular lattices with a sixfold rotational symmetry. Such anisotropic mechanical responses are essential for certain targeted applications of these synthetic materials. By introducing appropriate periodic boundary conditions that apply to large deformations, this work presents an efficient computational model of soft network materials based on the analyses of representative unit cells. This model is validated through comparison of predicted deformed configurations with full-scale finite element analyses (FEA) for different loading angles and loading strains. Based on this model, the anisotropic mechanical responses, including the nonlinear stress–strain curves and Poisson's ratios, are systematically analyzed for three representative lattice topologies (square, triangular and honeycomb). An analytic solution of the geometry-based critical strain was found to show a good correspondence to the critical transition point of the calculated J-shaped stress–strain curve for different network geometries and loading angles. Furthermore, the nonlinear Poisson's ratio, which can be either negative or positive, was shown to depend highly on both the loading angle and the loading strain.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
J. Appl. Mech. 2018;85(7):071003-071003-8. doi:10.1115/1.4039672.

Viscoelasticity plays an important role in the instability and performance of soft transducers. Wrinkling, an instability phenomenon commonly observed on soft materials, has been studied extensively. In this paper, we theoretically investigate the viscoelastic effect on the wrinkle formation of a dielectric-elastomer (DE) balloon subjected to combined electromechanical loads. Results show that the critical voltage for the wrinkle formation of a DE balloon gradually decreases as the material undergoes viscoelastic relaxation and finally reaches a stable value. The wrinkles in the lateral direction always have critical voltages equal to or lower than those in the longitudinal direction. What is more, the nucleation sites of wrinkles always move from the apex to the rim of DE balloon with the viscoelastic relaxation of DE. It takes less time for the DE balloon with higher pressure to reach the stable state. Higher pressure also leads to the stable wrinkle nucleation site moving closer to the fixed edge of the DE balloon. An experiment is conducted to illustrate the effect of viscoelasticity on the wrinkle propagation of a DE balloon, and the results agree well with the model predictions. This study provides a guide in the wrinkling control of a DE balloon and may help the future design of DE transducers.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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