Civil Engineering Faculty Receives CAREER Award for Improving Fracture Simulation


“A crack is pretty straightforward to simulate, but when you have more than one, they can form very complex patterns,” Hillman said. “The speed of the fracture, whether it branches out or merges, where it spreads – it all gets very complicated.”

In recent years, an alternative technique has shown promise for performing complex simulations without describing the entire fracture model. Hillman noted that this new approach, known as peridynamics, uses integral equations to process simulation, but it has serious shortcomings – such as precision and stability issues – that limit its potential.

“It might sound a little strange, but there’s a chance your simulation will explode completely, which isn’t physical unless you’re actually faking an explosion,” Hillman said. “We call it instability for obvious reasons. “

In his preliminary research, Hillman developed a new mathematical theory, called Peridynamic Core Reproduction (RKPD), which creates a “bridge” between the traditional approach and peridynamics. With this merged framework, he is able to borrow techniques from the old, proven method and apply them to new, complex simulations – without needing to explicitly describe the entire fracture model.

With help from the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences Advanced CyberInfrastructure, Penn State’s high-performance research cloud, Hillman will be able to use RKPD to solve the problem of peridynamics with precision in complex fracture simulations. He said the CAREER award of $ 580,845 over five years will also allow him to make other improvements, such as the application of stabilization methods, the integration of techniques to manage shock waves and the integration. physics in simulation.

“This unifying theory will open a floodgate for vast improvements in the new method,” Hillman said. “If you have a failure due to a violent charge impact or an explosion, it involves many different types of physics. Once you have that bridge, you can borrow some of these techniques and apply them to the new method.

The CAREER Prize will also enable Hillman to develop open source software made available free of charge to academics, scientists and engineers to facilitate reproducible research and help them learn the fundamentals of digital fracture mechanics.

Hillman also plans to hold undergraduate seminars to explore simulation results in Penn State’s Immersive Construction Lab, which uses stereoscopic projectors on three large screens to create an immersive 3D experience. He said he hopes the environment will excite students and help recruit more for careers in digital analytics.

“You put on these 3D glasses and it almost feels like you can touch them and touch them,” Hillman said.

The NSF CAREER program supports early career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic models in research and education. The activities pursued by early career faculty should establish a solid foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research, according to the NSF website.