Crack Computing

May 22, 2014

Story by Helen Hill for MGHPCC
In this video meet seed-fund collaborators Markus Buehler (MIT) and Alain Karma (Northeastern) who use multiscale modeling to explore and test how biological materials like bone or nacre can, despite their apparent fragility, resist breakage.

Strength and fracture mechanisms of hierarchical biological materials.
Alain Karma is a professor of physics at Northeastern University. His main research interest lies in the theoretical understanding of how materials respond to stress. His collaborator on this MGHPCC seed funded project, Markus Buehler, is a professor of engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Buehler's focus is on understanding the mechanics of deformation and failure of biological materials at the molecular scale. In this video the pair share their work and their excitement about this new class of material science at the intersection of biology and engineering.

Multiscale modeling is a tool researchers use to make calculations of properties or system behavior at one length scale using information or models from different length scales. Integrating Buehler's atomic-scale expertise with Karma's structural-scale techniques, the pair are using high performance computing in a multiscale modeling effort to explore and test how biological materials like bone or nacre can, despite their apparent fragility, resist breakage.
The multiscale computational approach developed in their project is aimed at enabling an exploration of fundamental mechanisms that control the strength of biological materials, while at the same time, creating a platform for the biomimetic (literally nature mimicking) design of nanostructured composite engineering materials for technological applications such as structural materials and in the medical industry.
Find out more about Markus Buehler's research at and about Alain Karma's at
Video credit: Helen Hill

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