CAREER: An Integrated Computational and Experimental Framework to Understand Deformation and Failure of Porous Materials

Project: Research project

Project Details


This Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant will support fundamental research to understand how porous materials deform and fail under external loading, and to develop predictive models useful for the precise engineering of such materials. Applications are broad and include the safe and sustainable engineering of subsurface operations to extract energy (geothermal), store energy (hydrogen), and dispose of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide). Still others include the optimal design of components for fuel cells, batteries, and civil infrastructure, all of national interest to the US. Existing models used to predict deformation and failure of microstructurally complex porous materials are slow and contain knowledge gaps that stem from a lack of mechanistic understanding of the physics. This project aims to accelerate computer simulations through novel mathematical algorithms and to anchor the simulations to controlled lab experiments for improved physical understanding. The integrated educational activities include the training of next-generation engineers, curriculum development for graduate students, outreach to K-12 teachers of rural Pennsylvania through a summer research program in partnership with the Center for Science and the Schools at Penn State, and tools and data for domain experts.

There is a gap in the fundamental understanding of how porous materials deform and fail at microscopic scales. Classical poromechanical models used to simulate the physics approximate porous materials as continua and, therefore, cannot provide insights into the microscopic origins of failure. Direct numerical simulation presents an attractive alternative but is computationally expensive. This project will support the development of an integrated suite of lab experiments and computational methods with the overarching goal of: (1) enabling a mechanistic understanding of deformation and failure of brittle porous media; and (2) accelerating microscale simulations through physics-informed mathematical approximations. The combined effort will contribute towards establishing structure-property relations that are useful for designing and screening new and resilient microstructures. It will also enable computationally demanding tasks such as optimization and uncertainty quantification associated with geometrically complex porous domains.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date8/1/227/31/27


  • National Science Foundation: $629,955.00


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