The surfaces of growing biological tissues, swelling gels, and compressed rubbers do not remain smooth, but frequently exhibit highly localized inward folds. We reveal the morphology of this surface folding in a novel experimental setup, which permits us to deform the surface of a soft gel in a controlled fashion. The interface first forms a sharp furrow, whose tip size decreases rapidly with deformation. Above a critical deformation, the furrow bifurcates to an inward folded crease of vanishing tip size. We show experimentally and numerically that both creases and furrows exhibit a universal cusp shape, whose width scales like y3/2 at a distance y from the tip. We provide a similarity theory that captures the singular profiles before and after the self-folding bifurcation, and derive the length of the fold from finite deformation elasticity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Physics and Astronomy