Tensile behavior of non-crosslinked networks of athermal fibers in the presence of entanglements and friction
Many biological and soft artificial materials contain a random network of non-crosslinked fibers as their main structural component. The excluded volume interactions (contact forces) at fiber contacts control the mechanical behavior of these systems. This physics has been studied extensively in compression, but little is known about the relation between network structure and its mechanical response in tension. In particular, although occasionally used conjecturally, the notion of fiber entanglements in athermal networks is not well defined, nor is it clear what role entanglements play in athermal network mechanics. The primary contribution of this work is the introduction of a measure of the degree of entanglement of a system of random athermal fibers, and the definition of its relationship with the mechanical behavior of the network. Entanglements confine the fibers during tensile loading, reduce the auxetic effect in mat-like networks, and maintain the inter-fiber contact density. In the absence of this contribution, reduction of the contact density during tensile loading due to auxeticity results in stress reduction. Entanglements stabilize the network via a tensegrity mechanism similar to that operating in woven materials and lead to network stiffening. The relation between the proposed measure of entanglements and the fiber volume fraction is defined. The effect of inter-fiber friction on the mechanics of entangled mat-like non-crosslinked fiber networks is also evaluated.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Force transmission by nonlinear biomaterials