Dehomogenized Elastic Properties of Heterogeneous Layered Materials in AFM Indentation Experiments

Jia Jye Lee, Satish Rao, Gaurav Kaushik, Evren U. Azeloglu, Kevin D. Costa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is used to study mechanical properties of biological materials at submicron length scales. However, such samples are often structurally heterogeneous even at the local level, with different regions having distinct mechanical properties. Physical or chemical disruption can isolate individual structural elements but may alter the properties being measured. Therefore, to determine the micromechanical properties of intact heterogeneous multilayered samples indented by AFM, we propose the Hybrid Eshelby Decomposition (HED) analysis, which combines a modified homogenization theory and finite element modeling to extract layer-specific elastic moduli of composite structures from single indentations, utilizing knowledge of the component distribution to achieve solution uniqueness. Using finite element model-simulated indentation of layered samples with micron-scale thickness dimensions, biologically relevant elastic properties for incompressible soft tissues, and layer-specific heterogeneity of an order of magnitude or less, HED analysis recovered the prescribed modulus values typically within 10% error. Experimental validation using bilayer spin-coated polydimethylsiloxane samples also yielded self-consistent layer-specific modulus values whether arranged as stiff layer on soft substrate or soft layer on stiff substrate. We further examined a biophysical application by characterizing layer-specific microelastic properties of full-thickness mouse aortic wall tissue, demonstrating that the HED-extracted modulus of the tunica media was more than fivefold stiffer than the intima and not significantly different from direct indentation of exposed media tissue. Our results show that the elastic properties of surface and subsurface layers of microscale synthetic and biological samples can be simultaneously extracted from the composite material response to AFM indentation. HED analysis offers a robust approach to studying regional micromechanics of heterogeneous multilayered samples without destructively separating individual components before testing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2717-2731
Number of pages15
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - 5 Jun 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Dehomogenized Elastic Properties of Heterogeneous Layered Materials in AFM Indentation Experiments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this