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Title: Compression stiffening of fibrous networks with stiff inclusions

Tissues commonly consist of cells embedded within a fibrous biopolymer network. Whereas cell-free reconstituted biopolymer networks typically soften under applied uniaxial compression, various tissues, including liver, brain, and fat, have been observed to instead stiffen when compressed. The mechanism for this compression-stiffening effect is not yet clear. Here, we demonstrate that when a material composed of stiff inclusions embedded in a fibrous network is compressed, heterogeneous rearrangement of the inclusions can induce tension within the interstitial network, leading to a macroscopic crossover from an initial bending-dominated softening regime to a stretching-dominated stiffening regime, which occurs before and independently of jamming of the inclusions. Using a coarse-grained particle-network model, we first establish a phase diagram for compression-driven, stretching-dominated stress propagation and jamming in uniaxially compressed two- and three-dimensional systems. Then, we demonstrate that a more detailed computational model of stiff inclusions in a subisostatic semiflexible fiber network exhibits quantitative agreement with the predictions of our coarse-grained model as well as qualitative agreement with experiments.

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Award ID(s):
1826623 2019745
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 21037-21044
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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