Researchers in the Mechanical Engineering Department at UCSB are pursuing a wide range of studies in Solid Mechanics, Materials, and Structures - in many areas that are at the forefront of 21st century technologies. There are several unifying inter-related themes that bring clusters of faculty and students together to successfully solve multifaceted problems.
Research Themes in Solid Mechanics, Materials & Structures
One such theme is the behavior of new and advanced materials, which include: ceramics, polymers, metallic and intermetallic composites as well as metallic alloys. These new materials pose unique challenges which range from a fundamental characterization of the defect behavior controlling basic flow and fracture processes, to understanding the interactions between the constitutive behavior of various components in composite systems, to describing the evolution of damage induced by microstructural instabilities, complex loading and environmental assault. Success requires combining fundamental knowledge of material behavior with novel mechanics analysis methods.
A second theme pursues solutions found in large-scale computational techniques applied to mechanics and optimization. Again the problems are quite varied, ranging from the development of numerical tools for the optimal design, to the computer simulation of manufacturing processes. Successful solutions rely on combining a fundamental understanding of the mechanics and physics of the problem with the development of novel numerical methods and algorithms and visualization techniques to assess large-scale data outputs, as well as methods to optimize the use of distributed and parallel computers.
Our researchers study a number of fundamental and engineering issues related to the fabrication and performance of materials for advanced thermo-structural systems. Much of this research is centered in the mechanics of materials area. It involves combinations of experiment and modeling to tackle problems related to the use of advanced materials in load bearing applications. The materials include advanced ceramics, composites, films/coatings and cellular materials, as well as interfaces and their adhesion.
The technologies covered are diverse:
- High temperature materials for power generation and aero-propulsion
- Materials for thermal management in hypersonic vehicles, ships and power electronics
- Materials for ultralight components used in aerospace systems
- Materials having especially low weight and compactness through multifunctionality
- Materials and systems for high authority actuation and shape morphing
- Materials and structures that impart blast and fragment protection
Another focus is on developing methods for predicting safe lifetime limits in structural components used in a wide range of engineering systems. These methods are essential for the safe design and operation of new engineering systems as well as lifetime prediction of existing aging systems. The research integrates modeling and experiments to develop a rigorous understanding of microstructural, dimensional and mechanical property changes experienced by materials used in hostile service environments as well as advanced fracture mechanics and statistical reliability assessment methods.
As an integrating theme, the emphasis is not only on "traditional" materials but also on the application to advanced materials where the effects of environmental degradation are much less understood. Research is also being carried out on smart materials in the form of ferroelectric ceramics. These sensor materials are increasingly being utilized for activation in smart systems to control noise and vibration and the shape of aerodynamic surfaces.