Buckling of elastic structures under tensile dead load

An initially rectilinear elastic rod buckles under increasing end thrust when a transverse deflection suddenly appears, a phenomenon experimentally clarified some 250 years ago by Musschenbroek and theoretically solved by Euler. Since then, a myriad of variants to this bifurcation and instability problem have been analyzed, but examples of buckling of structures whose elements are subject to tension as provided by a dead load have never been found, so that the word ‘buckling’ is believed to be associated to compression. We disprove this belief, by showing that simple elastic structures can be designed and realized, exhibiting instability and bifurcation for tensile dead loads; the elastic line of these structures is found to be identical to the curve of a fluid meniscus in a capillary.

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