An investigation of Hertzian contact in soft materials using photoelastic tomography

Academic Article


  • Hertzian contact of a rigid sphere and a highly deformable soft solid is investigated using integrated photoelasticity. The experiments are performed by pressing a styrene sphere of 15 mm diameter against a 44 x 44 x 47 mm$^3$ cuboid made of 5% wt. gelatin, inside a circular polariscope, and with a range of forces. The emerging light rays are processed by considering that the retardation of each ray carries the cumulative effect of traversing the contact-induced axisymmetric stress field. Then, assuming Hertzian theory is valid, the retardation is analytically calculated for each ray and compared to the experimental one. Furthermore, a finite element model of the process introduces the effect of finite displacements and strains. Beyond the qualitative comparison of the retardation fields, the experimental, theoretical, and numerical results are quantitatively compared in terms of the maximum equivalent stress, surface displacement, and contact radius dimensions. A favorable agreement is found at lower force levels, where the assumptions of Hertz theory hold, whereas deviations are observed at higher force levels. A major discovery of this work is that at the maximum equivalent stress location, all three components of principal stress can be determined experimentally, and show satisfactory agreement with theoretical and numerical ones in our measurement range. This provides valuable insight into Hertzian contact problems since the maximum equivalent stress controls the initiation of plastic deformation or failure. The measured displacement and contact radii also reasonably agree with the theoretical and numerical ones. Finally, the limitations that arise due to the linearization of this problem are explored.
  • Authors

  • Mitchell, Benjamin
  • Yokoyama, Yuto
  • Nassiri, Ali
  • Tagawa, Yoshiyuki
  • Korkolis, Yannis
  • Kinsey, Brad
  • Publication Date

  • July 8, 2022
  • Keywords

  • cond-mat.mtrl-sci