Undulation instability of lamellar phases under shear: A mechanism for onion formation?

A. G. Zilman, R. Granek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


We consider a lamellar phase of bilayer membranes held between two parallel plates and subject to a steady shear. Accounting for the coupling with the shear flow of the short wavelength undulation modes that are responsible for the membrane excess area, we argue that the flow generates an effective force which acts to reduce the excess area. From the viewpoint of the macroscopic lamellar whose geometric dimensions are fixed, this force translates into an effective lateral pressure. At low shear rates γ̇ this pressure is balanced by the elastic restoring forces of the lamellar. Above a critical shear rate γ̇ ∼ d-5/2D-1/2, where d is the interlayer distance and D is the gap spacing, the lamellar buckles into a harmonic shape modulation, and we predict its wavelength λc and amplitude U0. We show that our model is isomorphic to a dilative strain, which is known to induce a similar buckling (undulation) instability. Indeed, at threshold the wavelength is λc ∼ √Dd and is identical in both cases. Using a non-linear analysis, we discuss how the wavelength and amplitude vary with shear rate away from the threshold. For γ̇ ≫ γ̇c we find λc∼γ̇-1/3 and Uo ∼ γ̇2/3. We then focus on the coupling of the buckling modulation itself with the flow, and obtain a criterion for the limit of its stability. Motivated by experiments of D. Roux and coworkers, we assume that at this limit of stability the lamellar breakups into "onion"-like, multilamellar, vesicles. The critical shear rate γ̇* for the formation of onions is predicted to scale as γ̇∼γ̇C∼d-5/2D-1/2. The scaling with d is consistent with available experimental data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-608
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Physical Journal B
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2 Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Undulation instability of lamellar phases under shear: A mechanism for onion formation?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this