Topology, Geometry, and Mechanics of Strongly Stretched and Twisted Filaments: Solenoids, Plectonemes, and Artificial Muscle Fibers

Phys Rev Lett. 2019 Nov 15;123(20):208003. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.123.208003.


Soft elastic filaments that can be stretched, bent, and twisted exhibit a range of topologically and geometrically complex morphologies. Recently, a number of experiments have shown how to use these building blocks to create filament-based artificial muscles that use the conversion of writhe to extension or contraction, exposing the connection between topology, geometry, and mechanics. Here, we combine numerical simulations of soft elastic filaments that account for geometric nonlinearities and self-contact to map out the basic structures underlying artificial muscle fibers in a phase diagram that is a function of the extension and twist density. We then use ideas from computational topology to track the interconversion of link, twist, and writhe in these geometrically complex physical structures to explain the physical principles underlying artificial muscle fibers and provide guidelines for their design.

MeSH terms

  • Artificial Organs*
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Elasticity
  • Models, Biological*
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal*