European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Geometry and Anomalous Dynamic Growth of Elastic instabiliTies

Project description

Theoretical and computational studies of elastic instabilities enhance understanding

Elastic deformations – reversible changes in materials due to forces on them – are ubiquitous in nature and engineered materials. Sometimes when materials undergo deformations in which the deforming force is relatively large relative to the restorative force, they can develop so-called elastic instabilities, and new shapes emerge. This can be seen in wrinkles on the skin or the breaking of an umbrella in high wind. The European Research Council-funded GADGET project will develop a theoretical framework with which to address gaps in our understanding of elastic instabilities. They will use a model system, a pressurised elastic shell subject to a geometrically large deformation, to evaluate the role played by geometry and dynamics.


Elastic instabilities are ubiquitous, from the wrinkles that form on skin to the ‘snap-through’ of an umbrella on a windy day. The complex patterns such instabilities make, and the great speed with which they develop, have led to a host of technological and scientific applications. However, recent experiments have revealed significant gaps in our theoretical understanding of such instabilities, particularly in the roles played by geometry and dynamics. I will establish a group to develop and validate a theoretical framework within which these results can be understood. Central to my approach is an appreciation of the crucial role of geometry in the pattern formation and dynamics of elastic instabilities.

As a starting point, I will consider the model problem of a pressurized elastic shell subject to a geometrically large deformation. This system develops either wrinkles or a stress-focusing instability depending on the internal pressure. As such, this is a natural paradigm with which to understand geometrical features of deformation relevant across length scales from deformed viruses to the subduction zones in Earth’s tectonic plates. My team will combine theoretical and computational approaches with tabletop experiments to determine a new set of shell deformations that are generically observed in contradiction of the classic ‘mirror buckling’. Understanding why these new shapes emerge will transform our perception of shell instabilities and provide new fundamental building blocks with which to model them. These ideas will also be used to transform our understanding of a number of other, previously mysterious, elastic instabilities of practical interest. Turning our focus to the dynamics of instabilities such as the snap-through of shells, we will show that accounting for geometry is again crucial. The new insight gained through this project will increase our ability to control elastic instabilities, benefitting a range of technological and scientific applications.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 361 077,00
OX1 2JD Oxford
United Kingdom

See on map

South East (England) Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Oxfordshire
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 361 077,00

Beneficiaries (1)