Thermally driven elastic membranes are quasi-linear across all scales

Chanania Steinbock*, Eytan Katzav

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We study the static and dynamic structure of thermally fluctuating elastic thin sheets by investigating a model known as the overdamped dynamic Föppl-von Kármán equation, in which the Föppl-von Kármán equation from elasticity theory is driven by white noise. The resulting nonlinear equation is governed by a single nondimensional coupling parameter g where large and small values of g correspond to weak and strong nonlinear coupling respectively. By analysing the weak coupling case with ordinary perturbation theory and the strong coupling case with a self-consistent methodology known as the self-consistent expansion, precise analytic predictions for the static and dynamic structure factors are obtained. Importantly, the maximum frequency nmax supported by the system plays a role in determining which of three possible classes such sheets belong to: (1) when g≫1, the system is mostly linear with roughness exponent ζ = 1 and dynamic exponent z = 4, (2) when g≪2/nmax, the system is extremely nonlinear with roughness exponent ζ=1/2 and dynamic exponent z = 3, (3) between these regimes, an intermediate behaviour is obtained in which a crossover occurs such that the nonlinear behaviour is observed for small frequencies while the linear behaviour is observed for large frequencies, and thus the large frequency linear tail is found to have a significant impact on the small frequency behaviour of the sheet. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that ultra-thin materials such as graphene lie in this intermediate regime. Despite the existence of these three distinct behaviours, the decay rate of the dynamic structure factor is related to the static structure factor as if the system were completely linear. This quasi-linearity occurs regardless of the size of g and at all length scales. Numerical simulations confirm the existence of the three classes of behaviour and the quasi-linearity of all classes.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number215002
JournalJournal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical
Issue number21
StatePublished - 26 May 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by IOP Publishing Ltd.


  • Family-Vicsek scaling
  • Föppl-von Kármán equations
  • out-of-equilibrium dynamics
  • roughness
  • self-consistent expansion
  • thin sheets


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