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Nature communications

On the tear resistance of skin.


PMID 25812485

Abstract

Tear resistance is of vital importance in the various functions of skin, especially protection from predatorial attack. Here, we mechanistically quantify the extreme tear resistance of skin and identify the underlying structural features, which lead to its sophisticated failure mechanisms. We explain why it is virtually impossible to propagate a tear in rabbit skin, chosen as a model material for the dermis of vertebrates. We express the deformation in terms of four mechanisms of collagen fibril activity in skin under tensile loading that virtually eliminate the possibility of tearing in pre-notched samples: fibril straightening, fibril reorientation towards the tensile direction, elastic stretching and interfibrillar sliding, all of which contribute to the redistribution of the stresses at the notch tip.