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Great News for Engineers! New Technology Predicts How (and When!) Materials Will Respond

Wouldn’t it be great if you could predict how different materials would respond to different environmental changes – and not spend days on the computer figuring it out? Well, thanks to the work of William Oates, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, this may actually be possible.

Oates recently published his research findings in Smart Materials and Structures, an industry publication, and detailed the theory he has developed that will allow engineers to quickly anticipate just how materials will react in different circumstances.

“The basic idea is if I was going to tell you that I can predict that this piece of material is going to break and you asked me how confident I am this is really true, we have to resort to statistics and probability,” said Oates. “Ultimately, we would like to say that this material has a 5 percent probability of breaking, for example.”

In his paper, Oates studied ferroelectric material – a common material that many engineers work with on a regular basis. He stated, “The material is pretty pervasive in a number of fields. So understanding how the material behaves and trying to come up with new compositions is a pretty active area of research.”

His original research ended up going down the wrong path and his first report was rejected by the journal. This led him to a new quantum theorem discovery and ultimately changed his ground-breaking research.

He created a tool that would take the quantum theorem, compare it to other quantum simulations with similar designs. This new statistical method has now been dubbed the Bayesian method.

“With this new tool, we can apply it to all sorts of materials and basically quantify how good are we as engineers at approximating nature without spending countless numbers of hours on a computer,” Oates said.

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