Nonlinear time-dependent mechanical behavior of mammalian collagen fibrils

Fan Yang, Debashish Das, Kathiresan Karunakaran, Guy M. Genin, Stavros Thomopoulos, Ioannis Chasiotis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The viscoelastic mechanical behavior of collagenous tissues has been studied extensively at the macroscale, yet a thorough quantitative understanding of the time-dependent mechanics of the basic building blocks of tissues, the collagen fibrils, is still missing. In order to address this knowledge gap, stress relaxation and creep tests at various stress (5-35 MPa) and strain (5-20%) levels were performed with individual collagen fibrils (average diameter of fully hydrated fibrils: 253 ± 21 nm) in phosphate buffered saline (PBS). The experimental results showed that the time-dependent mechanical behavior of fully hydrated individual collagen fibrils reconstituted from Type I calf skin collagen, is described by strain-dependent stress relaxation and stress-dependent creep functions in both the heel-toe and the linear regimes of deformation in monotonic stress-strain curves. The adaptive quasilinear viscoelastic (QLV) model, originally developed to capture the nonlinear viscoelastic response of collagenous tissues, provided a very good description of the nonlinear stress relaxation and creep behavior of the collagen fibrils. On the other hand, the nonlinear superposition (NSP) model fitted well the creep but not the stress relaxation data. The time constants and rates extracted from the adaptive QLV and the NSP models, respectively, pointed to a faster rate for stress relaxation than creep. This nonlinear viscoelastic behavior of individual collagen fibrils agrees with prior studies of macroscale collagenous tissues, thus demonstrating consistent time-dependent behavior across length scales and tissue hierarchies. Statement of significance: Pure stress relaxation and creep experiments were conducted for the first time with fully hydrated individual collagen fibrils. It is shown that collagen nanofibrils have a nonlinear time-dependent behavior which agrees with prior studies on macroscale collagenous tissues, thus demonstrating consistent time-dependent behavior across length scales and tissue hierarchies. This new insight into the non-linear viscoelastic behavior of the building blocks of mammalian collagenous tissues may serve as the foundation for improved macroscale tissue models that capture the mechanical behavior across length scales.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-77
Number of pages15
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Creep
  • MEMS
  • Reconstituted collagen
  • Stress relaxation
  • Viscoelasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biomaterials


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