Civil and Environmental Engineering

Structural testing at the micro and nano scales: breaking invisible specimens with zero force

November 03, 2017

12:00 p.m. - 1:20 p.m.

Gates Hall 4401

Dr. Roberto Ballarini
Thomas and Laura Hsu Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Houston.


In this talk, I will describe how a bunch of clever and hardworking students and research associates have pioneered the use of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) platforms to measure the mechanical response of materials and structures at the micro and nano scales.

Selected examples include measurements of strength, toughness, high cycle and static fatigue of brittle MEMS materials, the strength, ultimate strain capacity and viscoelastic response of individual collagen fibrils, and the fracture energy of the carbon nanotube-epoxy matrix interface.

A brief description of several the theoretical and computational models that were inspired by the experimental observations will also be presented.


Dr. Roberto Ballarini is Thomas and Laura Hsu Professor and Chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Houston. He joined the University of Houston after having served for eight years as James Record Chair at University of Minnesota and for twenty year as Leonard Case Professor of Engineering at Case Western Reserve University.

Dr. Ballarini’s multidisciplinary research focuses on the development and application of theoretical and experimental techniques to characterize the response of materials to mechanical, thermal, and environmental loads. He is particularly interested in formulating analytical and computational models for characterizing fatigue and fracture of materials and structures.

His research has been applied to problems arising in civil engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering, materials science, electromechanical systems, biological tissues and prosthetic design. His current research involves theoretical, computational and experimental studies of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) and nanoscale biological and synthetic materials, bioinspired design of composite structures and materials, seismic-resistant structural steel systems, size effects in quasibrittle materials and structures, and the collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis.

He is the Past-President of the ASCE Engineering Mechanics Institute and serves as Editor-in-Chief of ASCE Journal of Engineering Mechanics.

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