The shape of hanging elastic cylinders
Deformations of heavy elastic cylinders with their axis in the direction of earth's gravity field are investigated. The specimens, made of polyacrylamide hydrogels, are attached from their top circular cross section to a rigid plate. An equilibrium configuration results from the interplay between gravity that tends to deform the cylinders downwards under their own weight, and elasticity that resists these distortions. The corresponding steady state exhibits fascinating shapes which are measured with lab-based micro-tomography. For any given initial radius to height ratio, the deformed cylinders are no longer axially symmetric beyond a critical value of a control parameter that depends on the volume force, the height and the elastic modulus: self-similar wrinkling hierarchies develop, and dimples appear at the bottom surface of the shallowest samples. We show that these patterns are the consequences of elastic instabilities.