University of Arizona aerospace and mechanical engineering professor Erdogan Madenci will head a new multi-university research program to predict damage and failure of materials used in applications spanning microchips to spaceships.
The project will be based on the emerging theory of peridynamics, which enables modeling of material fracture and failure. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research will fund the $7.5 million multidisciplinary university research initiative, or MURI, over the next five years.
Madenci's recent peridynamics research has focused on extending the methodology to predict failure in electronics components, such as microchips and composite aircraft components, under harsh environmental and loading conditions, thus increasing safety and reducing the risk of failure.
"Peridynamic theory enables engineers to better understand how materials and structures fail," Madenci said. "Existing computational methods are inadequate because the underlying mathematics breaks down when defects or flaws emerge in materials."
Madenci will work with co-primary investigator Robert Erdmann, an assistant professor in the UA Department of Materials Science and Engineering, who will apply his research in computational materials science and engineering to investigating the link between material microstructures and fracture properties. Ibrahim Guven, an assistant professor in the same department, will research how grain structure affects the fracture mechanics of materials.
Further advancement of peridynamic theory will result in breakthrough improvements in material properties and performance in a wide range of applications, ranging from lightweight aerospace vehicles to naval vessels. For example, peridynamics could be used to predict the damage caused to aircraft by lightning strikes, and could lead to the development of new materials that can better withstand million-volt bolts of electricity.
The proposed research will pave the way for the design of new materials, which is one of the primary objectives of the Material Genome Initiative, launched by the federal government in 2011 with the goal of doubling the pace of advanced materials discovery, innovation, manufacture, and commercialization.
The UA engineering team will collaborate with researchers at the University of Texas, San Antonio; University of Nebraska, Lincoln; Pennsylvania State University; and Arizona State University.
"Our research team has extensive expertise in applying peridynamic theory to materials failure, materials modeling, and mathematical analysis," Madenci said. "We are in a unique position to develop predictive tools based on peridynamic theory that will enable us to manipulate the properties of materials and lead to the design of new materials."
The peridynamics research grant is one of seven awards, worth a total of $67.5 million, funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research in 2013 under the Department of Defense MURI program.