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Issue 34, 2013
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Contorting a heavy and naturally curved elastic rod

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We investigate how the configurations obtained from the writhing of a heavy elastic rod are influenced by its intrinsic natural curvature. To this end, we perform a combination of numerics and precision model experiments on the compression or twisting of a thin rod. The ‘softness’ of these single elastic filaments stems from their slenderness (high aspect ratio), which allow for geometrically nonlinear compliant modes that can accommodate large deformations. We uncover the original mechanism that the presence of a body force (gravity in our case) delays the effect of natural curvature, which results from the complex interplay between geometrical constraints, elasticity and weight. We rationalize our experimental results by coupling the predictive power of a numerical method of our own, with classic theory for elastic rods under large deformations. This preponderance of geometry is relevant in systems over a wide range of length scales where curvature and body-forces often co-exist; from engineered rod-like structures such as wires, cables, and pipelines, to natural macromolecules, flagella, fibers and tendrils.

Graphical abstract: Contorting a heavy and naturally curved elastic rod

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Publication details

The article was received on 28 Mar 2013, accepted on 29 May 2013 and first published on 30 May 2013

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C3SM50873K
Soft Matter, 2013,9, 8274-8281

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    Contorting a heavy and naturally curved elastic rod

    A. Lazarus, J. T. Miller, M. M. Metlitz and P. M. Reis, Soft Matter, 2013, 9, 8274
    DOI: 10.1039/C3SM50873K

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