Determination of the Young's modulus of the epicuticle of the smooth adhesive organs of Carausius morosus using tensile testing
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Adhesive organs like arolia of insects allow these animals to climb on different substrates by creating high adhesion forces. According to the Dahlquist criterion, adhesive organs must be very soft, exhibiting an effective Young's modulus of below 100 kPa to adhere well to substrates. Such a low effective Young's modulus allows the adhesive organs to make almost direct contact with the substrate and results in van der Waals forces along with capillary forces. In previous studies, the effective Young's moduli of adhesive organs were determined using indentation tests, revealing their structure to be very soft. However, adhesive organs show a layered structure, thus the measured values comprise the effective Young's moduli of several layers of the adhesive organs. In this study, a new approach is illustrated to measure the Young's modulus of the outermost layer of the arolium, i.e. of the epicuticle, of the stick insect Carausius morosus. As a result of the epicuticle being supported by upright fibres, tensile tests allow the determination of the Young's modulus of the epicuticle with hardly influence from subjacent layers. In our tensile tests, arolia of stick insects adhering on a latex membrane were stretched by stretching the membrane while the elongation of the contact area between an arolium and the membrane was recorded. For analysis, mathematical models of the mechanical system were developed. When fed with the observed elongations, these models yield estimates for the Young's modulus of the epicuticle of approximately 100 MPa. Thus, in arolia, a very thin layer (\textasciitilde225 nm) of a rather stiff material, which is less susceptible to abrasion, makes contact with the substrates, whereas the inner fibrous structure of arolia is responsible for their softness.