Research Breakthrough: The Real Intelligence of Smart Materials Monday, 07 January 2019


Research into smart materials at Victoria University is producing valuable outcomes for structural designers. Smart materials are shown to give structures superior mechanical properties and capability to adapt to environmental conditions, which enhances both functionality and survivability.

Headed by Dr Zora Vrcelj and supported by her former student Dr Soheil Gohari the research is titled ‘New explicit solution for static shape control of smart laminated cantilever piezo-composite-hybrid plates/beams under thermos-electro-mechanical loads using piezoelectric actuators’.

The culmination of three years’ work, the findings will provide structural designers with an improved insight into the fundamental behaviour of smart laminated composite structures.

Dr Vrcelj says the proposed numerical models were shown to be efficient, simple and accurate tools for designing safe, smart laminated structures. Laminated composite structures are now commonly adopted in structural applications requiring high stiffness-to-weight and strength-to-weight ratios.

“The proposed analytical methods can accurately predict that critical mechanical loads do not require pre-defection function to be predetermined,” she explains. “They can be used for both embedded and bounded actuators for shape control tasks. The residual thermal stress’s effect on shape control tasks was also considered.”

One disadvantage of using laminated composite members is the difficulty of inspecting their critical-to-failure regions while undergoing loads. Used as sensors and actuators, piezo electric materials – which can create electricity when subjected to a mechanical stress – have transformed conventional laminated composite structures into smart ones.

Until the start of this research project, comprehensive analytical and numerical solutions for this type of analysis of smart laminated composite structures were not available.

Dr Zora Vrcelj has built a career on using sophisticated mathematical models to solve practical problems in the field of structural mechanics, including civil engineering, mechanical and aerospace applications.