Soft mechanical systems can derive their compliance either from the constitutive nature of the underlying low-modulus materials or from the slender geometry of their structural members (even with high-modulus materials). The mechanics of soft materials and structures is currently the focus of renewed research efforts taking advantage of quickly evolving experimental techniques for design, fabrication, and characterization, as well as novel theoretical and computational tools for analysis. The combination of the development of new materials with unprecedented mechanical properties, together with modern manufacturing techniques (e.g., molding, lithography, and 3D printing) to realize complex architectural layouts, are opening a wide array of opportunities, both for research and applications. For example, soft materials may be activated by coupling mechanical deformation with electrostatic, physical-chemical, magnetic or fluid forces. Such material systems are, therefore, promising candidates to envision as active structural components necessary soft robotics, shape-morphing structures, and compliant energy-harvesting devices. Soft materials also share comparable mechanical properties and, often, constitutive composition with biological tissue, therefore, acting as valuable model systems for their mechanical behavior. Another specificity of soft mechanical systems is the relative importance of surface forces such as adhesion, and capillary effects, which may even become dominant.
This session aims at bringing together researchers sharing an interest in the mechanics and physics of soft materials and structures, which, despite diverse, share the common fundamental challenges of nonlinear mechanics (large strains, nonlinear constitutive behavior, and geometric nonlinearities) coupled with other intricate physical mechanisms.