Capillary buckling of a thin film adhering to a sphere
We present a combined theoretical and experimental study of the buckling of a thin film wrapped around a sphere under the action of capillary forces. A rigid sphere is coated with a wetting liquid, and then wrapped by a thin film having an approximately cylindrical shape. The equilibrium of the film is governed by the competing effects of elasticity and capillarity: elasticity tends to keep the film developable while capillarity tends to curve it in both directions so as to maximize the area of contact with the sphere. In the experiments, the region of contact between the film and the sphere has cylindrical symmetry when the sphere radius is small, but destabilizes to a non-symmetric, wrinkled configuration when the radius is larger than a critical value. We combine the Donnell equations for near-cylindrical shells to include a unilateral constraint with the impenetrable sphere, and the capillary forces acting along a moving edge. A non-linear solution describing the axisymmetric configuration of the film is derived. A linear stability analysis is then presented, which successfully captures the wrinkling instability, the symmetry of the unstable mode, the instability threshold and the critical wavelength. The motion of the free boundary at the edge of the region of contact, which has an effect on the instability, is treated without any approximation.