The Physics of Elastic Films: from Biological Membranes to Extreme Mechanics

Coordinators: Markus Deserno, Rumiana Dimova, Andrej Kosmrlj, and Carlos Marques


Elastic films, thin sheets that resist bending, are ubiquitous in both nature and man-made systems. They display fascinating and often unexpected mechanical properties that enable countless applications, but have proven challenging to model and quantify. Indeed, elastic films come in a great many varieties: they can be fluid or solid, relaxed or pre-stressed, in the ground state or thermally fluctuating, in or out of equilibrium, within linear response or strongly nonlinear, etc. Elegant physical and mathematical theories developed for one class might miraculously work for a very different one—or spectacularly fail. Moreover, profound ideas discovered in one community of researchers might be unknown in another, due to field-specific conceptual approaches, differences in mathematical language, or simply because disciplinary boundaries have impeded communication.

This program aims to explore some of the many recent advances in the physics and mathematics of elastic films, within their biological and technological context, by providing a lively and highly collaborative venue for a diverse group of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. We invite participants with theoretical expertise (ranging from continuum mechanics and differential geometry, to statistical field theory and thermodynamics, to numerical mathematics and computational modeling) as well as experimentalists (e.g. from cell- and mechanobiology, tissue engineering, 4d printing with hydrogels and liquid crystal elastomers, and atomically thin 2d materials). The ultimate goal is a description and understanding of these systems that uncovers universal principles, makes similarities and differences transparent, and thereby builds the crucial intuition that fosters progress.

The program will emphasize focused discussions on interrelated themes:

  •  (Non-) Equilibrium fluctuations of fluid membranes and solid shells
  • Extreme Mechanics
  • Frustrated solid sheets and fluid membranes
  • Mechanical stress propagation in fluid and solid lipid membranes
  • Wetting of deformable sheets