The interaction between the cohesive zone and the elastic stiffness heterogeneity in the peeling of an adhesive tape from a rigid substrate is examined experimentally and with finite element simulations. It is established in the literature that elastic stiffness heterogeneities can greatly enhance the force required to peel a tape without changing the properties of the interface. However, much of these concern brittle materials where the cohesive zone is limited in size. This paper reports the results of peeling experiments performed on pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes with both an elastic stiffness heterogeneity and a substantial cohesive zone. These experiments show muted enhancement in the peeling force and suggest that the cohesive zone acts to smooth out the effect of the discontinuity at the edge of the elastic stiffness heterogeneities, suppressing their effect on peel force enhancement. This mechanism is examined through numerical simulation which confirms that the peel force enhancement depends on the strength of the adhesive and the size of the cohesive zone.

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