Purdue University Graduate School
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Fractional-Order Structural Mechanics: Theory and Applications

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posted on 2022-07-25, 12:42 authored by Sansit PatnaikSansit Patnaik

The rapid growth of fields such as metamaterials, composites, architected materials, porous solids, and micro/nano materials, along with the continuing advancements in design and fabrication procedures have led to the synthesis of complex structures having intricate material distributions and non-trivial geometries. These materials find important applications including biomedical implants and devices, aerospace and naval structures, and micro/nano-electromechanical devices. Theoretical and experimental evidences have shown that these structures exhibit size-dependent (or, nonlocal) effects. This implies that the response of a point within the solid is affected by a collection of points; ultimately a manifestation of the multiscale deformation process. Broadly speaking, at a continuum level, the mathematical description of these multiscale phenomena leads to integral constitutive models, that account for the long-range interactions via nonlocal kernels. 

Despite receiving considerable attention, the existing class of approaches to nonlocal elasticity are predominantly phenomenological in nature, following from their definition of the material parameters of the nonlocal kernel based on 'representative volume element' (RVE)-based statistical homogenization of the heterogeneous microstructure. The size of the RVE required for practical simulation, does not achieve a full-resolution of the intricate heterogeneous microstructure, and also implicitly enforces the use of symmetric nonlocal kernels to achieve thermodynamic consistency and mathematically well-posedness. The latter restriction directly limits the application of existing approaches only to the linear deformation analysis of either periodic or isotropic nonlocal structures. Additionally, the lack of a consistent characterization of the nonlocal effects, often results in inconsistent (also labeled as 'paradoxical') predictions depending on the nature of the external loading. In order to address these fundamental theoretical gaps, this dissertation develops a fractional-order kinematic approach to nonlocal elasticity by leveraging cutting-edge mathematical operators derived from the field of fractional calculus.

In contrast to the class of existing class of approaches that adopt an integral stress-strain constitutive relation derived from the equilibrium of the RVE, the fractional-order approach is predicated on a differ-integral (fractional-order) strain-displacement relation. The latter relation is derived from a fractional-order deformation-gradient mapping between deformed and undeformed configurations, and this approach naturally localizes and captures the effect of nonlocality at the root of the deformation phenomena. The most remarkable consequence of this reformulation consists in its ability to achieve thermodynamic and mathematical consistency, irrespective of the nature of the nonlocal kernel. The convex and positive-definite nature of the formulation enabled the use of variational principles to formulate well-posed governing equations, the incorporation of nonlinear effects, and enabled the development of accurate finite element simulation methods. The aforementioned features, when combined with a variable-order extension of the fractional-order continuum theory, enabled the physically consistent application of the nonlocal formulation to general continua exhibiting asymmetric interactions; ultimately a manifestation of material heterogeneity. Indeed, a rigorous theoretical analysis was conducted to demonstrate the natural ability of the variable-order in capturing the role of microstructure in the deformation of heterogeneous porous solids. These advantages allowed the application of the fractional-order kinematic approach to accurately and efficiently model the response of porous beams and plates, with random microstructural descriptions. Results derived from multiphysical loading conditions, as well as nonlinear deformation regimes, are used to demonstrate the causal relation between the kinematics-based fractional-order characterization of nonlocal effects and the natural role of microstructure in determining the macroscopic response of heterogeneous solids. The potential implications of the developed formalism on scientific discovery of material laws are examined in-depth, and different areas for further research are identified.


NSF DCSD 1825837

DARPA D19AP00052

Purdue University Hugh W. and Edna M. Donnan Fellowship


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Fabio Semperlotti

Additional Committee Member 2

Guang Lin

Additional Committee Member 3

James Gibert

Additional Committee Member 4

Tyler Tallman