In vitro fracture testing of submicron diameter collagen fibril specimens

Zhilei Liu Shen, Mohammad Reza Dodge, Harold Kahn, Roberto Ballarini, Steven J. Eppell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Mechanical testing of collagenous tissues at different length scales will provide improved understanding of the mechanical behavior of structures such as skin, tendon, and bone, and also guide the development of multiscale mechanical models. Using a microelectromechanical-systems (MEMS) platform, stress-strain response curves up to failure of type I collagen fibril specimens isolated from the dermis of sea cucumbers were obtained in vitro. A majority of the fibril specimens showed brittle fracture. Some displayed linear behavior up to failure, while others displayed some nonlinearity. The fibril specimens showed an elastic modulus of 470 ± 410 MPa, a fracture strength of 230 ± 160 MPa, and a fracture strain of 80% ± 44%. The fibril specimens displayed significantly lower elastic modulus in vitro than previously measured in air. Fracture strength/strain obtained in vitro and in air are both significantly larger than those obtained in vacuo, indicating that the difference arises from the lack of intrafibrillar water molecules produced by vacuum drying. Furthermore, fracture strength/strain of fibril specimens were different from those reported for collagenous tissues of higher hierarchical levels, indicating the importance of obtaining these properties at the fibrillar level for multiscale modeling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1986-1995
Number of pages10
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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