The dynamic response of an initially spherical capsule subject to different externally imposed flows is examined. The neo-Hookean and Skalak et al. (Biophys. J., vol. 13 (1973), pp. 245–264) constitutive laws are used for the description of the membrane mechanics, assuming negligible bending resistance. The viscosity ratio between the interior and exterior fluids of the capsule is taken to be unity and creeping-flow conditions are assumed to prevail. The capillary number $\varepsilon $ is the basic dimensionless number of the problem, which measures the relative importance of viscous and elastic forces. The boundary-element method is used with bi-cubic B-splines as basis functions in order to discretize the capsule surface by a structured mesh. This guarantees continuity of second derivatives with respect to the position of the Lagrangian particles used for tracking the location of the interface at each time step and improves the accuracy of the method. For simple shear flow and hyperbolic flow, an interval in $\varepsilon $ is identified within which stable equilibrium shapes are obtained. For smaller values of $\varepsilon $, steady shapes are briefly captured, but they soon become unstable owing to the development of compressive tensions in the membrane near the equator that cause the capsule to buckle. The post-buckling state of the capsule is conjectured to exhibit small folds around the equator similar to those reported by Walter et al. Colloid Polymer Sci. Vol. 278 (2001), pp. 123–132 for polysiloxane microcapsules. For large values of $\varepsilon $, beyond the interval of stability, the membrane has two tips along the direction of elongation where the deformation is most severe, and no equilibrium shapes could be identified. For both regions outside the interval of stability, the membrane model is not appropriate and bending resistance is essential to obtain realistic capsule shapes. This pattern persists for the two constitutive laws that were used, with the Skalak et al. law producing a wider stability interval than the neo-Hookean law owing to its strain hardening nature.
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