Prescribed pattern transformation in swelling gel tubes by elastic instability

Phys Rev Lett. 2012 May 25;108(21):214304. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.214304. Epub 2012 May 25.


We present a study on swelling-induced circumferential buckling of tubular shaped gels. Inhomogeneous stress develops as the gel swells under mechanical constraints, which gives rise to spontaneous buckling instability without an external force. Full control over the postbuckling pattern is experimentally demonstrated. A simple analytical model is developed using elastic energy to predict stability and postbuckling patterns upon swelling. Analysis reveals that the height to diameter ratio is the most critical design parameter to determine the buckling pattern, which agrees well with experimental and numerical results.