Nested self-similar wrinkling patterns in skins

Nat Mater. 2005 Apr;4(4):293-7. doi: 10.1038/nmat1342.


Stiff thin films on soft substrates are both ancient and commonplace in nature; for instance, animal skin comprises a stiff epidermis attached to a soft dermis. Although more recent and rare, artificial skins are increasingly used in a broad range of applications, including flexible electronics, tunable diffraction gratings, force spectroscopy in cells, modern metrology methods, and other devices. Here we show that model elastomeric artificial skins wrinkle in a hierarchical pattern consisting of self-similar buckles extending over five orders of magnitude in length scale, ranging from a few nanometres to a few millimetres. We provide a mechanism for the formation of this hierarchical wrinkling pattern, and quantify our experimental findings with both computations and a simple scaling theory. This allows us to harness the substrates for applications. In particular, we show how to use the multigeneration-wrinkled substrate for separating particles based on their size, while simultaneously forming linear chains of monodisperse particles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Linking Reagents / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Microscopy
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Models, Statistical
  • Nanotechnology
  • Ozone
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Skin Aging*
  • Skin, Artificial
  • Spectrophotometry
  • Temperature
  • Time Factors
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Ozone