On the computation of stress in affine versus nonaffine fibril kinematics within planar collagen network models

Thomas J Pence, Ryan J Monroe, Neil T Wright
Journal of Biomechanical Engineering 2008, 130 (4): 041009
Some recent analyses modeled the response of collagenous tissues, such as epicardium, using a hypothetical network consisting of interconnected springlike fibers. The fibers in the network were organized such that internal nodes served as the connection point between three such collagen springs. The results for assumed affine and nonaffine deformations are contrasted after a homogeneous deformation at the boundary. Affine deformation provides a stiffer mechanical response than nonaffine deformation. In contrast to nonaffine deformation, affine deformation determines the displacement of internal nodes without imposing detailed force balance, thereby complicating the simplest intuitive notion of stress, one based on free body cuts, at the single node scale. The standard notion of stress may then be recovered via average field theory computations based on large micromesh realizations. An alternative and by all indications complementary viewpoint for the determination of stress in these collagen fiber networks is discussed here, one in which stress is defined using elastic energy storage, a notion which is intuitive at the single node scale. It replaces the average field theory computations by an averaging technique over randomly oriented isolated simple elements. The analytical operations do not require large micromesh realizations, but the tedious nature of the mathematical manipulation is clearly aided by symbolic algebra calculation. For the example case of linear elastic deformation, this results in material stiffnesses that relate the infinitesimal strain and stress. The result that the affine case is stiffer than the nonaffine case is recovered, as would be expected. The energy framework also lends itself to the natural inclusion of changes in mechanical response due to the chemical, electrical, or thermal environment.

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