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Curvature-dependent surface energy and implications for nanostructures. (English) Zbl 1270.74018
Summary: At small length scales, several size-effects in both physical phenomena and properties can be rationalized by invoking the concept of surface energy. Conventional theoretical frameworks of surface energy, in both the mechanics and physics communities, assume curvature independence. In this work we adopt a simplified and linearized version of a theory proposed by Steigmann-Ogden to capture curvature-dependence of surface energy. Connecting the theory to atomistic calculations and the solution to an illustrative paradigmatical problem of a bent cantilever beam, we catalog the influence of curvature-dependence of surface energy on the effective elastic modulus of nanostructures. The observation in atomistic calculations that the elastic modulus of bent nanostructures is dramatically different than under tension – sometimes softer, sometimes stiffer – has been a source of puzzlement to the scientific community. We show that the corrected surface mechanics framework provides a resolution to this issue. Finally, we propose an unambiguous definition of the thickness of a crystalline surface.

74A50 Structured surfaces and interfaces, coexistent phases
74A60 Micromechanical theories
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