Professor Mark Spearing aims to improve the process by which advanced materials are introduced into aerospace structural applications. That process is now hampered by an industry that is more sensitive to cost and more adverse to risk. This is compounded by negative experiences in which much was initially expected of new material technologies, but by the time they were scaled up to structural applications, they did not achieve the expected performance or economic targets, and in a few spectacular instances failed by unanticipated mechanisms.
To address these problems, Professor Spearing of aeronautics and astronautics is developing and integrating models for failure processes in composite materials and structures. These models will allow the design engineer to link between the mechanisms that determine failure at the material scale and those that apply at larger, structural scales. Equally important is a graduate class he is teaching that aims to expose materials engineers to the requirements of the structural design process, and structural engineers to the failure mechanisms of composite materials.
The research is funded by an NSF CAREER award and Boeing Commercial Airplane Group.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on June 3, 1998.