Abstract

This paper describes an apparatus designed to study large mechanical deformations in biological membranes. The task of mechanically characterizing biological membranes is challenging because of the anisotropic and nonlinear nature of their material properties. The apparatus described here is well suited to the task because it uses speckle interferometry to measure in-plane displacements in a distributed fashion and has multiple degrees of freedom in the applied stress mechanism. In this way few a priori assumptions or restrictions are imposed on the applied stress and strain fields. The interferometer operates in transmission mode to increase the light efficiency of the system since the sample biological membranes are translucent and reflect little light. The experimental results confirm that the strain fields in the biological membranes that are generated in the experiments are highly nonuniform and cannot be properly estimated from a small number of point measurements.

© 1997 Optical Society of America

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