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Mechanics of Squishy Materials : Living and Not

Alfred J. Crosby Polymer Science & Engineering Department, University of Massachusetts Amherst

We will discuss the mechanics of squishy materials, both living and not. First, we describe how the same balance of materials properties and geometry that control draping in a thin film can be advantageous for the hierarchical design of reversible, elastomer-based adhesives. We develop a simple scaling theory to link the adhesive performance of features on nanometer lengths to climbing systems of macroscopic dimension. Second, we will discuss background and recent developments of a characterization technique referred to as cavitation rheology. Cavitation rheology involves studying the instantaneous expansion of a material network induced when an applied pressure at a syringe needle tip reaches a critical value. The critical pressure can be related to the elasticity or fracture properties of the polymer network, depending upon the needle radius. This method provides opportunities for studying mechanical properties in both synthetic polymer networks and biological tissues from molecular to macroscopic length scales at an arbitrary location. Overall, this discussion will provide an overview of efforts within our group to learn from Nature in the design of materials.