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International Helmholtz Research School
of Biophysics and Soft Matter

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Shells under pressure

Shells under pressure
A thin spherical shell can be considered as an elastic membrane with shear modulus, bending rigidity and a non-zero curvature. On a micrometer and submicrometer scale, examples of these shells range from synthetic hollow polyelectrolyte capsules with important technological applications to biologically relevant systems such as red blood cells and spherical virus capsids. In the absence of thermal fluctuations, the stability of elastic shells against external forces depends on the ratio between size of the shell and the thickness of the wall. Thermal fluctuations are expected to influence the mechanical response of a deformed shell by renormalization of elastic constants. We study the deformations of these shells using Monte Carlo computer simulations and perturbation theory including the effects of curvature and external pressure. We show that thermal fluctuations reduce the critical buckling pressure and soften the mechanical response on point-like indentations.

Theory of Soft Matter and Biophysics:
G. A. Vliegenthart, G. Gompper

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