Electrostatics-Driven Hierarchical Buckling of Charged Flexible Ribbons

Zhenwei Yao*, Monica Olvera De La Cruz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We investigate the rich morphologies of an electrically charged flexible ribbon, which is a prototype for many beltlike structures in biology and nanomaterials. Long-range electrostatic repulsion is found to govern the hierarchical buckling of the ribbon from its initially flat shape to its undulated and out-of-plane twisted conformations. In this process, the screening length is the key controlling parameter, suggesting that a convenient way to manipulate the ribbon morphology is simply to change the salt concentration. We find that these shapes originate from the geometric effect of the electrostatic interaction, which fundamentally changes the metric over the ribbon surface. We also identify the basic modes by which the ribbon reshapes itself in order to lower the energy. The geometric effect of the physical interaction revealed in this Letter has implications for the shape design of extensive ribbonlike materials in nano- and biomaterials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number148101
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 4 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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