Smart networks


Smart materials are "designer materials"  – one or several of their properties can be controlled by external means, e.g. temperature, pH, or electromagnetic fields. They are "smart" because of their increased functionality, which allows them to be used in new and more varied ways than conventional materials.
This project will use computer simulations to study dilute random spring networks. These are simple models for textiles, biological tissues, and other soft disordered solids. The goal is to determine whether random networks can be smart materials.
Using simulations, we will investigate the elastic shear modulus of random spring networks. The shear modulus describes an elastic solid's stiffness against shearing motions; it is a crucial factor in determining how the material supports a load. We will investigate the possibility of tuning the shear modulus by stretching the network, i.e. by subjecting it to a tensile stress. 
Our goal is to demonstrate numerically, and then to explain theoretically, how a material's shear modulus varies when it is stretched. If this dependence is known, the external load can then be used as a "control knob" with which to tune the shear modulus.


The student will:
  1. perform computer simulations of stretched random networks, varying both loading and network connectivity
  2. perform numerical analysis of the networks, including normal mode analysis and linear response calculations of the shear modulus.
  3. learn the theoretical methods of critical scaling analysis, and apply them to stretched random networks.
This project is best suited to students who have enthusiasm for computer simulations and numerical analysis.