Soft biological tissues show a strongly non linear and time-dependent mechanical response and undergo large strains under physiological loads. The microstructural arrangement determines specific anisotropic macroscopic properties that must be considered within a constitutive formulation. The characterization of the mechanical behaviour of soft tissues entails the definition of constitutive models capable of accounting for geometric and material non linearity. In the model presented here a hyperelastic anisotropic formulation is adopted as the basis for the development of constitutive models for soft tissues and can be properly arranged for the investigation of viscous and damage phenomena as well to interpret significant aspects pertaining to ordinary and degenerative conditions. Visco-hyperelastic models are used to analyze the time-dependent mechanical response, while elasto-damage models account for the stiffness and strength decrease that can develop under significant loading or degenerative conditions. Experimental testing points out that damage response is affected by the strain rate associated with loading, showing a decrease in the damage limits as the strain rate increases. This phenomena can be investigated by means of a model capable of accounting for damage phenomena in relation to viscous effects. The visco-hyperelastic damage model developed is defined on the basis of a Helmholtz free energy function depending on the strain-damage history. In particular, a specific damage criterion is formulated in order to evaluate the influence of the strain rate on damage. The model can be implemented in a general purpose finite element code. This makes it possible to perform numerical analyses of the mechanical response considering time-dependent effects and damage phenomena. The experimental tests develop investigated tissue response for different strain rate conditions, accounting for stretch situations capable of inducing damage phenomena. The reliability of the formulation is evaluated by a comparison with the results of experimental tests performed on pig periodontal ligament.

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