Tension-induced multistability in inextensible helical ribbons

E.L. Starostin & G.H.M. van der Heijden

We study the non-monotonic force-extension behaviour of helical ribbons using a new model for inextensible elastic strips. Unlike previous rod models our model predicts hysteresis behaviour for low-pitch ribbons of arbitrary material properties. Associated with it is a first-order transition between two different helical states as observed in experiments with cholesterol ribbons. Numerical solutions show non-uniform uncoiling with hysteresis also occurring under controlled tension. They furthermore reveal a new uncoiling scenario in which a ribbon of very low pitch shears under tension and successively releases a sequence of almost planar loops. Our results may be relevant for nanoscale devices such as force probes.

Physical Review Letters 101, 084301 (2008)