Euler elastica as a Γ-limit of discrete bending energies of one-dimensional chains of atoms

Malena I. Español, Dmitry Golovaty, J. Patrick Wilber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In the 1920s, Hencky proposed a discrete elastica model describing a chain of identical rigid bars connected by torsional springs. Hencky observed that this discrete elastica model converges to Euler’s elastica as the number of bars increases while their lengths decrease, and Hencky’s bar-chain model has been used primarily as an approximation of Euler’s elastica. A Hencky-type bar-chain model can also be incorporated into a Frenkel–Kontorova-type discrete atomistic model, where the joints and bars represent the atoms and interatomic bonds, respectively, while the entire chain of atoms interacts with either a substrate or other chains. The energy of a continuum system corresponding to this Frenkel–Kontorova-type model can then be recovered by taking an appropriate discrete-to-continuum limit. Developing a correct limiting procedure for the discrete elastica establishes the bending component of this continuum energy. In this paper we use Γ-convergence to rigorously show that as the bar length in the discrete elastica model we consider goes to 0, the bending energies of the chain Γ-converge to the continuum bending energy associated with Euler’s elastica.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1104-1116
Number of pages13
JournalMathematics and Mechanics of Solids
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Hencky bar-chain model
  • carbon nanotubes
  • elastica
  • graphene
  • Γ-convergence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics
  • General Materials Science
  • Mechanics of Materials


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