Physics of ribbon curling unravelled

curled ribbonsImage copyright

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Different ribbons will have a different optimum tension for curling

Scientists have explained precisely how and why a ribbon curls when we run a scissor blade down one side of it.

They teased out the effects of the blade’s sharpness, the tension applied to the ribbon and the speed it moves.

As the ribbon bends around the blade, its outermost side stretches and permanently deforms, producing curls.

Sharper blades and slower movement make tighter curls – but the pulling force has an ideal strength, above which the curls become less pronounced.

The UK-based team will present the study on Wednesday at the March Meeting of the American Physical Society in Baltimore; it also appeared last month in the journal PNAS.

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