Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards
Organisation: University of Glasgow
Dates: Jan 2012-Dec 2016
Summary: Science and engineering are built on theory and experimentation, where the latter serves to verify the theory and to provide data for use in the theory. Nowadays, simulation technology exists as a third, complementary pillar. Advanced computer programs have been developed based on the aforementioned theories which can predict the behaviour of engineering structures and of processes (physical, biological, manufacturing, …) with an unprecedented power. Indeed, simulation technology has a pervasive impact on modern society. It is central to almost every aspect of science and engineering.
Simulation technology has a high degree of accuracy, but is usually limited to fixed domains. Nevertheless, many processes in engineering, physics and biology involve changes in the geometry, either the division of an originally intact body into multiple new domains like in fracture, the joining of parts that are originally disjointed like in welding, or growth and healing in biology.
In this research we use functions that are normally only used in Computer Aided Design also for analysing these phenomena. They have some complications, but also major advantages, e.g. they are much more flexible and can easily model smooth geometries, but also discontinuities, like fractures. We have extended this new methodology to fluid-saturated media, such as human soft tissues, plants, but also soils and rocks that are filled by water, gas or oil. We now can simulate cracking in these materials. An example is simulation of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), which is a crucial technology for shale gas extraction. This methodology therefore presents an important step towards predicting the direction of fractures under hydraulic pressure in a reliable manner.