Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics 39 (2004) 369 – 377.


In this paper, we develop a finite-deformation model for cell membranes with a view toward characterizing the local mechanical response of membranes in atomic force microscope (AFM) experiments. The membrane is modeled as a 2-D fluid continuum endowed with bending resistance. The general theory is used to obtain equations that describe axisymmetric equilibrium states. The membrane is assumed to enclose a fluid medium, which transmits hydrostatic pressure to the membrane, and a point load is applied at the pole to simulate an AFM probe. Both types of loading are associated with a potential and the problem is then cast in a variational setting. The equilibrium equations and boundary conditions are obtained by applying standard variational procedures, resulting in a pair of coupled fourth-order differential equations to be solved for the shape of the meridian. Further refinements associated with global constraints on the enclosed volume and contact with a rigid substrate are introduced, and a solution strategy is proposed which relies on an iterative scheme for calculating the associated Lagrange multipliers.