Morphogenesis and proportionate growth: A finite element investigation of surface growth with coupled diffusion

Virginia von Streng, Rami Abi-Akl, Bianca Giovanardi, Tal Cohen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Modeling the spontaneous evolution of morphology in natural systems and its preservation by proportionate growth remains a major scientific challenge. Yet, it is conceivable that if the basic mechanisms of growth and the coupled kinetic laws that orchestrate their function are accounted for, a minimal theoretical model may exhibit similar growth behaviors. The ubiquity of surface growth, a mechanism by which material is added or removed on the boundaries of the body, has motivated the development of theoretical models, which can capture the diffusion-coupled kinetics that govern it. However, due to their complexity, application of these models has been limited to simplified geometries. In this paper, we tackle these complexities by developing a finite element framework to study the diffusion-coupled growth and morphogenesis of finite bodies formed on uniform and flat substrates. We find that in this simplified growth setting, the evolving body exhibits a sequence of distinct growth stages that are reminiscent of natural systems, and appear spontaneously without any externally imposed regulation or coordination. The computational framework developed in this work can serve as the basis for future models that are able to account for growth in arbitrary geometrical settings, and can shed light on the basic physical laws that orchestrate growth and morphogenesis in the natural world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104211
JournalJournal of the Mechanics and Physics of Solids
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Finite elements
  • Kinetics
  • Surface growth


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