Myelin figures: The buckling and flow of wet soap

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Myelin figures are interfacial structures formed when certain surfactants swell in excess water. Here, I present data and model calculations suggesting the formation and growth of myelins is due to the fluid flow of surfactant, driven by the hydration gradient at the dry surfactant/water interface; a simple model based on this idea qualitatively reproduces various myelin growth behaviors observed in different experiments. From a detailed experimental observation of how myelins develop from a planar precursor structure, I identify a mechanical instability that may underlie myelin formation. These results indicate the mixed mechanical character of the surfactant lamellar structure, where fluid and elastic properties coexist, is what enables the formation and growth of myelins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number061502
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 17 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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