A nonlinear beam model to describe the postbuckling of wide neo-Hookean beams
Wide beams can exhibit subcritical buckling, i.e. the slope of the force-displacement curve can become negative in the postbuckling regime. In this paper, we capture this intriguing behaviour by constructing a 1D nonlinear beam model, where the central ingredient is the nonlinearity in the stress-strain relation of the beams constitutive material. First, we present experimental and numerical evidence of a transition to subcritical buckling for wide neo-Hookean hyperelastic beams, when their width-to-length ratio exceeds a critical value of 12%. Second, we construct an effective 1D energy density by combining the Mindlin–Reissner kinematics with a nonlinearity in the stress-strain relation. Finally, we establish and solve the governing beam equations to analytically determine the slope of the force-displacement curve in the postbuckling regime. We find, without any adjustable parameters, excellent agreement between the 1D theory, experiments and simulations. Our work extends the understanding of the postbuckling of structures made of wide elastic beams and opens up avenues for the reverse-engineering of instabilities in soft and metamaterials.