Puncture mechanics of soft solids†
Gels and other soft elastic networks are a ubiquitous and important class of materials whose unique properties enable special behavior, but generally elude characterization due to the inherent difficulty in manipulating them. An example of such behavior is the stability of gels to large local deformations on their surface. This paper analyzes puncture of model soft materials with particular focus on the force response to deep indentation and the critical load for material failure. Large-strain behavior during deep indentation is described with a neo-hookean contact model. A fracture process zone model is applied to the critical load for puncture. It is found that the indenter geometry influences the size of the fracture process zone, resulting in two distinct failure regimes: stress-limited and energy-limited. The methods outlined in this paper provide a simple means for measuring Young's modulus, E, as well as the material's maximum cohesive stress, σ0, fracture energy, Γ0, and the intrinsic length scale linking the two, l0, all without requiring specialized sample preparation.