The Wonders of Thin Structures From Failure to Functionality

It’s nice to be at crossroads. We see a lot more people passing when you are at the crossing. And.

It’s nice to be at crossroads. We see a lot more people passing
when you are at the crossing. And so you can benefit
from that and you can contribute to that as well. I really see myself
at the crossroads of science and
engineering, of trying to work on problems that are
relevant from an application point of view, as well as always
keeping in mind this underlying drive for discovery. In my lab, we focus on
understanding the mechanics of thin structures. A thin structure
is any object that has one dimension that is
much smaller than any other. One example might be hair. So it has a diameter that’s
much smaller than the length. We might be talking
about a sheet of paper. We might be talking
about pavement. We might be talking
about the dome. One feature of
thin structures is that when you put
them in the loading, they can undergo
large deformations and undergo what we call
mechanical instabilities. Buckling is another word
that we typically associate with these type of systems. In the past, one
would want to study the onset of these
large deformations in order to avoid them,
because if you do get there, then the structure will be
broken, it will be kaput. Recent advancement of
new materials where we can get into these
large deformation modes and come back,
reversibly, and back again is really opening up new
avenues for functionality, and once these new
opportunities are there, we need to understand what
happens, which is what we’re trying to do here in the group. There’s no error on
the max or the wrench. [INAUDIBLE] When I came to MIT,
I actually first joined the applied math
department of the time as an instructor, and eventually
I accepted this appointment as an assistant professor
here in mechanical engineering and civil and
environmental engineering. There’s a lot more
free room when you are right at the interface,
because you can merge things from one field onto another
one and really create something new. So there’s more opportunity
for discovering, more opportunity for growth,
more opportunity for novelty. [INAUDIBLE] the
light is operating, but if I want to access
the inner detectors. A unique feature
of thin structures is that the deformation
processes are strongly riddled in
geometry and as such, they are very scalable. And the advantage of
this scalability feature of these types of systems is
that we can then do experiments at the scale that is
first comfortable, and we can then get
precision data, which can help us inform in
the generation of models, unless we have the
models in place, we can take them back up or
down to the original scale of the application that
motivated the the study. An example of a system
of a very large scale that we are
currently working on, and that we’ve been
able to scale down to the desktop in the
lab, is the servicing of horizontal wellbores. These are extremely
long holes, essentially, and when they get
surveys, they go down with a very long still
piping, and when inserted, loads can develop, and
the structures can buckle. They can undergo
large deformation, which leads to lock-up
and eventually jamming. And so what we are
trying to do is to fundamentally understand
why this jamming occurs to then increase reach and
to be able to go further. In contrast to the
very small scale is the locomotion of bacteria. Some types of bacteria,
there’s the helical flagella, and we’re trying
to understand how the geometric and material
properties of these flagella impact locomotion properties. On the other hand,
one might say, well, we can just do it
inside a computer. True, but there’s nothing
like really playing with the systems,
touching the experiments, looking at what
happens, exploring. And so we follow very much
hand in hand computer models with experimentation, but
the surprises, typically, really happen in the lab. When you play with things,
you can discover things. There’s always a surprise
around the corner. It’s what we’re here for.

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