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Published May 7, 2012 | Published
Journal Article Open

Toughening and Asymmetry in Peeling of Heterogeneous Adhesives


The effective adhesive properties of heterogeneous thin films are characterized through a combined experimental and theoretical investigation. By bridging scales, we show how variations of elastic or adhesive properties at the microscale can significantly affect the effective peeling behavior of the adhesive at the macroscale. Our study reveals three elementary mechanisms in heterogeneous systems involving front propagation: (i) patterning the elastic bending stiffness of the film produces fluctuations of the driving force resulting in dramatically enhanced resistance to peeling; (ii) optimized arrangements of pinning sites with large adhesion energy are shown to control the effective system resistance, allowing the design of highly anisotropic and asymmetric adhesives; (iii) heterogeneities of both types result in front motion instabilities producing sudden energy releases that increase the overall adhesion energy. These findings open potentially new avenues for the design of thin films with improved adhesion properties, and motivate new investigations of other phenomena involving front propagation.

Additional Information

© 2012 American Physical Society. Received 2 November 2011; revised 20 January 2012; published 7 May 2012. This work was conducted when S. X. and L. P. were at Caltech. We thank J.-B. Leblond, P. Mithal, and A. Rosso for helpful discussions. The financial support from the US National Science Foundation (all authors) and from the European Union through the PhyCrack Marie Curie Fellowship (L. P.) is gratefully acknowledged.

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