Breakthrough Model Accurately Predicts Failure Point of Soft Materials

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A team of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has developed a major experimental and theoretical breakthrough by creating a new model that enables engineers to predict when any soft material will crack under pressure.

The precision of the predictions is such that it is expected to redefine the design of items made out of polymers, gels and hydrogels, connective tissues, and any other soft material. Currently, all these items are over-engineered and made much thicker than they need to be due to their designers not having a way to determine their failure points. With the new crack prediction theory, however, this could change.

The main challenge in estimating properties like the shear strength or predicting characteristics such as resistance to crack formation due to material fatigue lies in the molecules of these soft bodies and their weak connective bonds. Moreover, their molecular lattice is often random or at least irregular, so there’s no standard model that could act as a basis for data generation at scale.

The solution of the Massachusetts team of scientists was to combine massive sets of experimental data, computer modeling and simulation, high-precision chemistry, the Lake-Thomas Theory, and a new molecular model called Real Elastic Network Theory. Their computational model can accurately predict every mechanical and physical property of any soft material based on its ingredients and nothing else. Moreover, these predictions concern both the molecular and the product levels, so the model can handle any item of any size and shape.

The model presented by the Massachusetts researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences bridges the gap between chemistry and science of materials, at least for soft polymers, so it is expected to have fundamental effects on all practical fields of engineering as well as domains far beyond it.

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Article Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst