Alignment and nonlinear elasticity in biopolymer gels
Sander, Leonard M.
We present a Landau-type theory for the nonlinear elasticity of biopolymer gels with a part of the order parameter describing induced nematic order of fibers in the gel. We attribute the nonlinear elastic behavior of these materials to fiber alignment induced by strain. We suggest an application to contact guidance of cell motility in tissue. We compare our theory to simulation of a disordered lattice model for biopolymers. We treat homogeneous deformations such as simple shear, hydrostatic expansion, and simple extension, and obtain good agreement between theory and simulation. We also consider a localized perturbation which is a simple model for a contracting cell in a medium.