The research objective of this Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program project is to develop a novel theoretical framework and a computational methodology to simulate failure processes in structural systems under extreme events. Computer simulation of failure processes in structures is invaluable in many applications ? (1) performance-based design of structures for extreme events, (2) forensic examination of structural failures, (3) assessment of reserve capacities in post-disaster decision support etc. But due to the inherent complexity and sensitivity of failure processes, current computational tools are unable to simulate them reliably for engineers to use with confidence. This research project will adopt a fundamentally different approach to simulation of failure processes, integrating ideas from dynamical systems and control theory, statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, and constitutive modeling theory. The key to this integration will be a new mixed Lagrangian formalism. This approach will capture the essential physics of failure processes, leading to better mathematical models, and more efficient numerical algorithms for robust simulation. Computer simulations will be validated using a novel program of physical experiments, where specially developed optimal controls will be utilized to obtain robust data.
Successful completion of the project will provide practical tools that engineers can use routinely for assessing the performance of structural systems under extreme events. The project will involve collaboration with four industry partners to facilitate rapid and seamless transfer of these tools to practice. In line with the interdisciplinary nature of the research component, in the educational component of this project, a new course will be developed at the junior undergraduate level, whose purpose will be to tie different subjects in the undergraduate curriculum together within a unifying framework. Furthermore, numerical simulations of structural failures will be used to arouse engineering curiosity in K-12 students, through a network-based computer game, and through units developed for the TeachEngineering digital library, which is part of the NSF?s Digital Libraries collection.