About us
Student Projects
Tissue Aspiration
Torsional Resonator
Membrane Inflation
Biaxial Testing
Inverse Problem
Histology / Microscopy
Projects: Dr. R. Hopf
Projects: M. Pensalfini
Projects: K. Bircher
Projects: M. Reyes
Projects: A. Stracuzzi
Projects: F. Filotto
Projects: S. Domaschke
Projects: B. Müller
Projects: A. Wahlsten
Projects: V. Marina
Projects: D. Sachs


Experimental Continuum Mechanics

In collaboration with Empa
Research Topics

The study of the mechanical behavior of living tissues is a fascinating and challenging application of continuum mechanics. Characteristic features of soft biological tissues include large strain viscoelasticity, poroelasticity, anisotropy, and loading history dependence of the mechanical response. Their heterogeneous microstructure leads to significant differences and variability of stiffness and kinematics depending on the considered length scale. The construction, execution, analysis, and interpretation of corresponding experiments represent some of our core activities. Experimental observations under uniaxial and multiaxial loading states are rationalized using advanced continuum models as well as discrete fiber network models. Recent investigations include the study of the correlation between mechanical parameters and microstructural features obtained from histological observations, biochemical indices, or in-situ testing in a multiphoton microscope.

The group investigates the mechanics of biological and biomedical materials, i.e. man-made materials designed to interact with the body tissues in medical devices, implants, or scaffolds for tissue engineering. We study these material systems from sub-cellular to organ level towards a better understanding of complex interactions at different length scales. One important aspect is the evaluation of the so called “mechanical biocompatibility” of implants and prosthetics.

Our activities currently focus on the following topics:

Mechanics of thin tissues and biological membranes

Biological membranes and thin planar tissues represent mechanical structures with important physiological functions. Examples are the fetal membranes, the tympanic membrane, the thin capsules of abdominal organs, but also the thin layers of the skin. To understand these functions or possible dysfunctions and their relation to mechanical loads, we study the multiscale deformation behavior in homogeneous strain states as well as in the near-field of notches or cracks. Heterogeneous strain states are also investigated, for example related to the deformation behavior of excisional skin wounds and its changes during the healing process.

Mechanical interactions of cells with their surroundings

We investigate mechanical factors influencing cell behavior, such as orientation, adhesion, migration, or differentiation. We develop dedicated bioreactors to investigate the interaction between cells and their mechanical environment through live microscopy. Traction force microscopy is used to determine the force exerted by cells on soft substrates. Applications are in the field of tissue engineering of skin substitutes for closure of large wounds, e.g. from burns, and the endothelialization of cardiovascular devices, in particular for biomimetic blood-propulsion systems developed in the Zurich Heart project.

Mechanics of biomedical and implant materials

For materials used in contact with soft biological tissues and cells, there are particular requirements on the deformation behavior. Ideally, these materials match the mechanical properties of native tissues at all relevant length scales, a characteristic that we refer to as "mechanical biocompatibility". We investigate, for example, polymers, filamentous meshes for hernia repair, and hydrogels and electrospun scaffolds for tissue engineering. In addition to purely mechanical characteristics, e.g., deformation, stress, and stiffness, our work also considers coupled phenomena, such as the chemoelastic response of implant and scaffold materials , which might play an important role in transducing mechanical signals and establishing suitable mechanobiological environments for resident cells.

Development of biomedical devices

In close collaboration with medical doctors, we apply our knowledge on the mechanical behavior of soft biological tissues to develop biomedical devices. Recent applications concern the aspiration device for mechanical characterization of the uterine cervix, as well as healthy and scarred skin tissue, and patient- specific simulations of stent-induced loading of the aortic valve complex.

Team Leaders
Prof. Dr. Edoardo Mazza (Head) Dr. Alexander E. Ehret
Team Members and Projects

Post-Docs and Senior Scientists
Dr. Raoul Hopf
Dr. Gerald Kress
PhD Students
Kevin Bircher

Comparative biomechanics
Sebastian Domaschke

Mechanical Interactions in fibrous networks
Francesco Filotto

Nonlinear analysis of helical structures
Marco Pensalfini

Skin multiscale mechanics
Alejandra Magaly Reyes Lua

Traction force microscopy Analysis of the Cell-ECM interaction
Bettina Müller

In-vivo biomechanical analysis for skin diagnosis
Alberto Stracuzzi

Multiphasic phenomena in soft biological membranes
Adam Wahlsten

Multiscale mechanics of skin and skin-equivalent materials
New student projects available (22.11.2018)
Check out our recent publications (22.11.2018)
The mastertheses of S. Meneghello and A. Secondi are awarded with the ETH medal. (24.04.2017)

Tissue aspiration experiment

Torsional resonator

Membrane inflation experiment

Biaxial materials testing machine

Inverse problem



PhD theses

Peer reviewed papers


Zündel, Manuel, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2018

Bernardi, Laura, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2017

Hopf, Raoul, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2016

Frigerio, Marco, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2016

Maurer, Manfred, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2015

Karathanasopoulos, Nikolaos, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2015

Mauri, Arabella, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2015

Weickenmeier, Johannes, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2015

Perrini, Michela, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2014

Bürzle, Wilfried, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2014

Facheris, Giacomo, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2014

Farine, Marc, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2013

Hosseini, Ehsan, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2013

Röhrnbauer, Barbara, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2012

Pham, Minh Son, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2012

Winkler, Michael, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2012

Schläpfer, Benjamin, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2012

Mayer, Thomas, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2012

Jähne, Rene, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2012

Schifferle, Andreas, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2011

Schmidt, Arne, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2011

Radosavljevic, Marko, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2011

Papes, Ondrej, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2011

Hollenstein, Marc, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2011

Helfenstein, Jörg, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2011

Barbarino, Giuseppe, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2011

Egger, Julien
Julien has worked with us in 2009.

Binda, Luca, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2009

Jabareen, Mahmood, Dr.
Postdoc from 2007 to 2009

Wissler, Michael , Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2007

Weiss, Stephan, Dr.
Postdoc from 2006 to 2007

Valtorta, Davide, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2007

Colombo, Francesco, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2007

Nava, Alessandro, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2007

Masserey, Bernard, Dr.
Dissertation finished: 2006

09/05/18 | Francesco Filotto | ZfM | ETH

09/05/18 | Francesco Filotto | ZfM | ETH