Structure /


Description of the Research Group
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The Mechanical Design Group is a research group hosted by IDMEC and the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon. It has 43 senior researchers (25 University Professors, 11 Polytechnic Professors, 5 retired Professors and 2 full time researchers) and about 35 PhD students that are dedicated to do research and development work on mechanical design, advanced computational mechanics, biomechanics, experimental mechanics and advanced material characterization and processing.
The group was formed in 1978 organized around the development of models for computational mechanics, experimental mechanics and its application in the context of the design of structural and mechanical components. From there the group expanded its scientific expertise, through a strong international collaboration and participation in the relevant international scientific forums, and lead the Portuguese research efforts in the development of new mechanical design areas e.g. structural and multidisciplinary optimization, multibody dynamics, micro and nano mechanics and homogenization models, biomechanics and mechanobiology, smart structures, structural health monitoring.
The total number of researchers (43) includes a group of fourteen (14) researchers that will join IDMEC in January 2015 (ex-ICEMS laboratory). This group of researchers has a strong expertise on experimental mechanics, conceptual design, material science and rapid prototyping, adding important scientific knowledge and development experience on these essential areas.

The group develops theoretical and applied research in three major (focal) R&D areas, characterized by its main research topics:

Simulation and Design of Mechanical Systems: Structural dynamics, multibody system dynamics, vehicle dynamics, railway dynamics, crashworthiness and impact, accident reconstruction, injury biomechanics. Vibration and noise control, transmissibility and damping. Biomechanics of human movement and design of medical devices.

Modelling and Optimization of Structures and Materials: Optimal design, multidisciplinary optimization, multiscale modelling of cellular and composite materials, optimization of materials microstructure, modelling and simulation of nanomaterials, tissue biomechanics and mechanobiology, biomimetics. Applications on vibration control, structural damping, structural identification, damage detection and characterization, smart structures, optimal design of advanced composites, laminates and piezo materials, design of medical devices, namely prostheses and scaffolds for tissue engineering.

Structural Materials and Advanced Characterization: Characterization of cellular materials, composite materials, natural and bio-materials. Testing and evaluation of materials performance, analysis of fracture, fatigue behaviour under multiaxial loading and high-temperature applications. Evaluation of environmental degradation of biomaterials. Life cycle assessment of components and structures. Rapid prototyping.
Structure of the Research Group
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The Mechanical Design group (with 43 PhD integrated members) is organized in three R&D areas according to their main research topics and whose activities are coordinated by a senior scientist:
  • Helder C. Rodrigues (Full Professor) heads the group and simultaneously coordinate the research activities in Modelling and Optimization of Structures and Materials.
  • Jorge C. Ambrósio (Full Professor) coordinates the research activities in Simulation and Design of Mechanical Systems.
  • Rogério Colaço (Full Professor) coordinates the research activities in Structural Materials and Advanced Characterization.
João Folgado (Assistant Professor) assists the head of the group in the interface with IDMEC/LAETA.

A senior scientist directs each laboratory
  • Miguel T. Silva (Associate Professor) is the responsible for the Laboratory of Biomechanics: Human movement.
  • Paulo R. Fernandes (Associate Professor w/Habilitation) is the responsible for the Laboratory of Biomechanics: Tissue Biomechanics.
  • Pedro Amaral (Assistant Professor) is the responsible for the Experimental Mechanics Laboratory
  • Nuno Maia (Associate Professor w/Habilitation) is the responsible for the Laboratory of Vibrations.
  • Luis Reis (Associate Professor) is the responsible for the Laboratory of Composite Materials.
  • Rogério Colaço (Full Professor) is the responsible for the Nanostructured Materials Laboratory.
Objectives of the Research Group
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The research group is engaged on the development of experimental testing, computational analysis and development of analytical models to support the mechanical design process and apply them in the design of a wide range of products, namely mechanical components and structures in transportation (highway, railroad, maritime, space) and to medical devices. The objective is to integrate experimental, analytical and computational analysis models with optimal and multidisciplinary design methodologies to support the design of components and structures and the selection (or design) of the materials used in their manufacture. These methodologies, integrating the design of the components and structures with the selection or design of the materials, will allow unconventional and innovative design developments with strong economical and social impacts.

The research is carried in the group R&D areas and answering LAETA’s thematic lines objectives:

Transport Technology: Development of advanced structural dynamics analysis models, advanced materials design and optimal design methodologies necessary to tackle LAETA tasks in: railway dynamics (advanced wheel-rail contact models, pantograph-catenary interaction and infrastructure modelling), vehicles dynamics (suspension systems, structural flexibility, occupant comfort) and increase passive safety of occupants (structural crashworthiness and passenger injury)

Aeronautics and Space: Development of analytical and experimental models for characterization of composites failure, namely damage mechanisms occurring in advanced composites (e.g. matrix cracks, fibre fracture) and perform structural integrity analyses. Extend these studies through nano, micro and meso mechanics materials analysis models. Integrate these models with optimal design methodologies to project advanced materials (e.g. composites, laminates and cellular materials) for aeronautics applications with improved properties (e.g. damage tolerance, strength, stiffness/ weight ratio).

Biomechanics: Development of computational multiscale biomechanical models to characterize the behaviour of biological materials, (muscles and bones) and apply them in: (i) Improvement of scaffolds for bone tissue engineering. (ii) Study the biomechanical control of the bone adaptation process and (iii) design of bone prostheses. Development of models based in multibody dynamics tools and experimentally gathered movement data, to analyse the gait patterns. Apply these models in: (i) Analysis of pathologic and non-pathologic gait. (ii) Design of orthotic medical devices to support locomotion (iii) support clinical decisions in rehabilitation and orthopaedics.

Advanced Materials: Mechanical characterization of cellular materials (cork, bone, foams), ceramic materials and composite materials (fibre reinforced polymers and metals); Assessment techniques, including SEM (scanning electron microscopy) and TEM (transmission electron microscopy); Development of multiscale methods for the analysis of laminated, sandwich, piezoelectric and functionally graded materials; Modelling and simulation at molecular level of carbon-based nano materials (nanotubes, graphene, graphyne) for reinforcement of lighter materials; Development of innovative methodologies for the detection, localization and characterization of damage in engineering materials, including fracture failure and crack propagation analysis; Constitutive modelling and fatigue assessment of materials under multiaxial and cyclic loading. Continuous revision and improvement of existing material standards and design codes.

Engineering Design: Development of multidisciplinary design methodologies in mechanical design. Development of multi-criteria optimization tools. Modeling the materials selection process with optimization techniques. Modelling of the interaction between product architecture, materials and process selection in engineering design.
Main achievements 2008-2012
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In terms of scientific indicators the overall research achievements of the group during 2008-2012 (29 integrated members) can be summarized as follows: books edition (33), Chapters in books and other related publications (30), Publications in international journals with peer review (235), Communications in international conferences (479), and in national conferences (94), PhD theses completed (24), MSc theses completed (139).

In terms of financing and during this period the group got a total financing (competitive financing, not considering the LAETA associate laboratory funding) close to 4.4 million euros. This gives a yearly average of 28K€ per integrated PhD researcher (in 2012). Complementing this amount the group received a LAETA associate laboratory funding close to 1.5 million, i.e. for each euro of seed money the group raised three euros.

In scientific conference organization are significant the following meetings:
Major congresses: 8th World Congress of Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, 2009 (420 participants); 7th EUROMECH Solid Mechanics Conference, 2009 (600 participants); ENGOPT2010 (370 participants); European Society of Biomechanics Congress, 2012 (800 participants). Thematic meetings: Int Conf on Structural Eng Dynamics, 2009 (180 participants) and 2011 (140 participants); Scientific Workshop “Microscale Modeling and Mechanobiology”, 2011 (60 participants); International Conference on Railway Technology: Research, Development and Maintenance, 2012 (210 participants); ECCOMAS- International Conference On Tissue Engineering 2009 (90 participants) and 2011 (80 participants); EUROMECH Colloquium Biomechanics of Human Motion. New Frontiers of Multibody, Techniques for Clinical Applications, 2011 (95 participants) etc.

In terms of research work, the following achievements can be underlined:
  • Development of multibody dynamics, vibration and optimization models for furthering transport vehicles technology on crash worthiness, passive-active safety, and energy efficiency.
  • Development of hierarchical/multiscale optimal design methodologies for the design of advanced composite laminates, integrating the design of the structure and its material.
  • Development of multibody dynamics models for the simulation and reconstruction of vehicles accidents. These models have been widely used to support law court decisions and resolve insurance claims.
  • Development of a multiscale model to simulate the bone adaption process applied to the design of medical devices namely prostheses and scaffolds for tissue engineering.
  • Development of an active ankle-foot orthosis, to support people with locomotion pathologies such as drop foot (1º place prize “Prémio Ser Capaz – Inovação e Tecnologia”, Associação Salvador, 2011).
  • Characterization of electro-mechanical properties of materials and structures by inverse identification techniques and optimization of the location of piezoelectric actuators and sensors on hybrid adaptive structures.
  • Modelling of viscoelastic laminated sandwich structures with development of new finite element models for hybrid active-passive laminated sandwich structures.
  • Computational material design of ferroelectric materials microstructure with the objective of optimize the material macro level piezo-properties.
  • Development of force identification techniques based on the concept of transmissibility.
  • Development of vibration attenuation mechanical components using cork composite materials.
Group members on international societies executive committees:
  • C. Mota Soares, IACM Honorary Fellow ; Fellow ECCOMAS; 2009 Distinguished Ibero – American Person in Mechanical Engineering; President of APMTAC, National Delegate to NMP UE program.
  • M. Seabra Pereira, Vice-Chairman of European Rail Research Advisory Council.
  • J. Ambrosio, P Fernandes, H Rodrigues are in the executive boards of EUROMECH, ESB and ISSMO respectively.
Group members are chief editors of international scientific journals:
  • J. Ambrósio – Multibody System Dynamics, Springer.
  • J. Pombo – International Journal of Railway Technology, Saxe-Coburg Pbl.