Statistical mechanics of thin spherical shells

Andrej Košmrlj, David R. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


We explore how thermal fluctuations affect the mechanics of thin amorphous spherical shells. In flat membranes with a shear modulus, thermal fluctuations increase the bending rigidity and reduce the inplane elastic moduli in a scale-dependent fashion. This is still true for spherical shells. However, the additional coupling between the shell curvature, the local in-plane stretching modes, and the local out-ofplane undulations leads to novel phenomena. In spherical shells, thermal fluctuations produce a radiusdependent negative effective surface tension, equivalent to applying an inward external pressure. By adapting renormalization group calculations to allow for a spherical background curvature, we show that while small spherical shells are stable, sufficiently large shells are crushed by this thermally generated "pressure." Such shells can be stabilized by an outward osmotic pressure, but the effective shell size grows nonlinearly with increasing outward pressure, with the same universal power-law exponent that characterizes the response of fluctuating flat membranes to a uniform tension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number011002
JournalPhysical Review X
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Physics and Astronomy


  • Biological physics
  • Soft matter
  • Statistical physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Statistical mechanics of thin spherical shells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this