High-resolution spatiotemporal strain mapping reveals non-uniform deformation in micropatterned elastomers

B. Aksoy, A. Rehman, H. Bayraktar, B. E. Alaca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Micropatterns are generated on a vast selection of polymeric substrates for various applications ranging from stretchable electronics to cellular mechanobiological systems. When these patterned substrates are exposed to external loading, strain field is primarily affected by the presence of microfabricated structures and similarly by fabrication-related defects. The capturing of such nonhomogeneous strain fields is of utmost importance in cases where study of the mechanical behavior with a high spatial resolution is necessary. Image-based non-contact strain measurement techniques are favorable and have recently been extended to scanning tunneling microscope and scanning electron microscope images for the characterization of mechanical properties of metallic materials, e.g. steel and aluminum, at the microscale. A similar real-time analysis of strain heterogeneity in elastomers is yet to be achieved during the entire loading sequence. The available measurement methods for polymeric materials mostly depend on cross-head displacement or precalibrated strain values. Thus, they suffer either from the lack of any real-time analysis, spatiotemporal distribution or high resolution in addition to a combination of these factors. In this work, these challenges are addressed by integrating a tensile stretcher with an inverted optical microscope and developing a subpixel particle tracking algorithm. As a proof of concept, the patterns with a critical dimension of 200m are generated on polydimethylsiloxane substrates and strain distribution in the vicinity of the patterns is captured with a high spatiotemporal resolution. In the field of strain measurement, there is always a tradeoff between minimum measurable strain value and spatial resolution. Current noncontact techniques on elastomers can deliver a strain resolution of 0.001% over a minimum length of 5 cm. More importantly, inhomogeneities within this quite large region cannot be captured. The proposed technique can overcome this challenge and provides a displacement measurement resolution of 116 nm and a strain resolution of 0.04% over a gage length of 300m. Similarly, the ability to capture inhomogeneities is demonstrated by mapping strain around a thru-hole. The robustness of the technique is also evaluated, where no appreciable change in strain measurement is observed despite the significant variations imposed on the measurement mesh. The proposed approach introduces critical improvements for the determination of displacement and strain gradients in elastomers regarding the real-time nature of strain mapping with a microscale spatial resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number045008
JournalJournal of Micromechanics and Microengineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

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© 2017 IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • micropatterned elastomer
  • non-uniform strain distribution
  • spatiotemporal analysis
  • strain mapping


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