Rolling rubber bands, growing bacteria and corroding silicon wafers

September 10, 2010

Three papers from PRL that discuss some interesting problems:

[1] Rolling Ribbons

P S Raux et al

We present the results of a combined experimental and theoretical investigation of rolling elastic ribbons. Particular attention is given to characterizing the steady shapes that arise in static and dynamic rolling configurations. In both cases, above a critical value of the forcing (either gravitational or centrifugal), the ribbon assumes a two-lobed, peanut shape similar to that assumed by rolling droplets. Our theoretical model allows us to rationalize the observed shapes through consideration of the ribbon’s bending and stretching in response to the applied forcing.

[2] Morphology, Growth, and Size Limit of Bacterial Cells

H Jiang and S X Sun

Bacterial cells utilize a living peptidoglycan network (PG) to separate the cell interior from the surroundings. The shape of the cell is controlled by PG synthesis and cytoskeletal proteins that form bundles and filaments underneath the cell wall. The PG layer also resists turgor pressure and protects the cell from osmotic shock. We argue that mechanical influences alter the chemical equilibrium of the reversible PG assembly and determine the cell shape and cell size. Using a mechanochemical approach, we show that the cell shape can be regarded as a steady state of a growing network under the influence of turgor pressure and mechanical stress. Using simple elastic models, we predict the size of common spherical and rodlike bacteria. The influence of cytoskeletal bundles such as crescentin and MreB are discussed within the context of our model.

[3] Atomically Smooth Stress-Corrosion Cleavage of a Hydrogen-Implanted Crystal

G Moras et al

We present a quantum-accurate multiscale study of how hydrogen-filled discoidal “platelet” defects grow inside a silicon crystal. Dynamical simulations of a 10-nm-diameter platelet reveal that H2 molecules form at its internal surfaces, diffuse, and dissociate at its perimeter, where they both induce and stabilize the breaking up of highly stressed silicon bonds. A buildup of H2 internal pressure is neither needed for nor allowed by this stress-corrosion growth mechanism, at odds with previous models. Slow platelet growth up to micrometric sizes is predicted as a consequence, making atomically smooth crystal cleavage possible in implantation experiments.

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