Flexibility and Form: Emergence of Shape in Thin Sheets
Professor Narayanan Menon, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Thin sheets assume a rich diversity of shapes in the natural world, ranging from folds on the earth’s crust, to the wavy shapes of leaves and flowers, down to more microscopic biomembranes and synthetic thin films. We have used thin polymer films floating on the surface of a fluid as a venue in which to study the emergence of complex shapes via successive elastic instabilities. Understanding these patterns required new notions of ‘thinness’ or bendability of a sheet, which define regimes in which textbook theories of post-buckling fails. I will end by describing opportunities for wrapping and encapsulation in this new regime of highly-bendable materials.