Surface-tension-induced flattening of a nearly plane elastic solid

We report direct measurement of surface deformation in soft solids due to their surface tension. Gel replicas of poly(dimethysiloxane) masters with rippled surfaces are found to have amplitudes that decrease with decreasing gel modulus. Surface undulations of a thin elastomeric film are attenuated when it is oxidized by brief exposure to oxygen plasma. Surface deformation in both cases is modeled successfully as driven by surface tension and resisted by elasticity. Our results show that surface tension of soft solids drives significant deformation, and that the latter can be used to determine the former.