Beading instability in soft cylindrical gels with capillary energy: Weakly non-linear analysis and numerical simulations

M. Taffetani, P. Ciarletta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Soft cylindrical gels can develop a long-wavelength peristaltic pattern driven by a competition between surface tension and bulk elastic energy. In contrast to the Rayleigh-Plateau instability for viscous fluids, the macroscopic shape in soft solids evolves toward a stable beading, which strongly differs from the buckling arising in compressed elastic cylinders. This work proposes a novel theoretical and numerical approach for studying the onset and the non-linear development of the elasto-capillary beading in soft cylinders, made of neo-Hookean hyperelastic material with capillary energy at the free surface, subjected to axial stretch. Both a theoretical study, deriving the linear and the weakly non-linear stability analyses for the problem, and numerical simulations, investigating the fully non-linear evolution of the beaded morphology, are performed. The theoretical results prove that an axial elongation can not only favour the onset of beading, but also determine the nature of the elastic bifurcation. The fully non-linear phase diagrams of the beading are also derived from finite element numerical simulations, showing two peculiar morphological transitions when varying either the axial stretch or the material properties of the gel. Since the bifurcation is found to be subcritical for very slender cylinders, an imperfection sensitivity analysis is finally performed. In this case, it is shown that a surface sinusoidal imperfection can resonate with the corresponding marginally stable solution, thus selecting the emerging beading wavelength. In conclusion, the results of this study provide novel guidelines for controlling the beaded morphology in different experimental conditions, with important applications in micro-fabrication techniques, such as electrospun fibres.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-120
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.All rights reserved.

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Mathematics Research Group


  • Beading instability
  • Elastocapillarity
  • Finite elements
  • Finite strain
  • Stability and bifurcation


Dive into the research topics of 'Beading instability in soft cylindrical gels with capillary energy: Weakly non-linear analysis and numerical simulations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this