Publication: Decomposition and Visualization of Fourth-Order Elastic-Plastic Tensors

A.G. Neeman; R.M. Brannon; B. Jeremic; A. Van Gelderand;  A. Pang

Top view (Z from above) of eigentensors for Drucker-Prager material, time step 124, colored by minimum stretch eigenvalue.

Visualization of fourth-order tensors from solid mechanics has not been explored in depth previously. Challenges include the large number of components (3x3x3x3 for 3D), loss of major symmetry and loss of positive definiteness(with possibly zero or negative eigenvalues). This paper presents a decomposition of fourth-order tensors that facilitates their visualization and understanding. Fourth-order tensors are used to represent a solid’s stiffness.The stiffness tensor represents the relationship between increments of stress and increments of strain. Visualizing stiffness is important to understand the changing state of solids during plastification and failure. In this work,we present a method to reduce the number of stiffness components to second-order 3×3 tensors for visualization.The reduction is based on polar decomposition, followed by eigen-decomposition on the polar “stretch”. If any resulting eigenvalue is significantly lower than the others, the material has softened in that eigen-direction. The associated second-order eigentensor represents the mode of stress (such as compression, tension, shear, or some combination of these) to which the material becomes vulnerable. Thus we can visualize the physical meaning of plastification with techniques for visualizing second-order symmetric tensors.

Available Online:



Powder metal jet penetration into stressed rock

The Uintah computational framework (UCF) has been adopted for simulation of shaped charge jet penetration and subsequent damage to geological formations.  The Kayenta geomechanics model, as well as a simplified model for shakedown simulations has been  incorporated within the UCF and is undergoing extensive development to enhance it to account for fluid in pore space.

A generic penetration simulation using Uintah

The host code (Uintah) itself has been enhanced to accommodate  material variability and scale effects. Simulations have been performed that import flash X-ray data for the velocity and geometry of a particulated metallic jet so that uncertainty about the jet can be reduced to develop predictive models for target response.  Uintah’s analytical polar decomposition has been replaced with an iterative algorithm to dramatically improve accuracy under large deformations. Continue reading

Accelerated hip implant wear testing

3D model Experimental Setup

Rim cracking of polyethylene acetabular liners and squeaking in ceramic components are two important potential failure modes of hip implants, but the loads and stresses that cause such failures are not well understood. Contact stresses in hip implants are analyzed under worst case load conditions to develop new wear testing methods to improve the pre-clinical evaluation of next-generation hip implants and their materials. Complicated full-scale hip implant simulator tests are expensive and take months to complete. A primary goal of this work is to find inexpensive surrogate specimen shapes and loading modes that can, in inexpensive lab tests taking only a few hours, produce the same wear patterns as seen in full-scale prototype testing. Continue reading

Nonclassical plasticity validation

Analysis and computations have been performed by the Utah CSM group to support experimental investigations of unvalidated assumptions in plasticity theory. The primary untested assumption is that of a regular flow rule in which it is often assumed that the direction of the inelastic strain increment is unaffected by the total strain increment itself. To support laboratory testing of this hypothesis, the general equations of classical plasticity theory were simplified for the case of axisymmetric loading to provide experimentalists with two-parameter control of the axial and lateral stress increments corresponding to a specified loading trajectory in stress space. Loading programs involving changes in loading directions were designed. New methods for analyzing the data via a moving least squares fit to tensor-valued input-output data were used to quantitatively infer the apparent plastic tangent modulus matrix and thereby detect violations of the regular flow rule. Loading programs were designed for validating isotropic cap hardening models by directly measuring the effect of shear loading on the hydrostatic elastic limit.

UofU Contributors/collaborators:
Michael Braginski (postdoc, Mech. Engr., UofU)
Jeff Burghardt (PhD student, Mech. Engr., UofU)

External collaborators/mentors:
Stephen Bauer (Manager, Sandia National Labs geomechanics testing lab)
David Bronowski (Sandia geomechanics lab technician)
Erik Strack (Manager, Sandia Labs Computational Physics)

Publication: On a viscoplastic model for rocks with mechanism-dependent characteristic times

A.F. Fossum and R.M. Brannon (2006)

This paper summarizes the results of a theoretical and experimental program at Sandia National Laboratories aimed at identifying and modeling key physical features of rocks and rock-like materials at the laboratory scale over a broad range of strain rates. The mathematical development of a constitutive model is discussed and model predictions versus experimental data are given for a suite of laboratory tests. Concurrent pore collapse and cracking at the microscale are seen as competitive micromechanisms that give rise to the well-known macroscale phenomenon of a transition from volumetric compaction to dilatation under quasistatic triaxial compression. For high-rate loading, this competition between pore collapse and microcracking also seems to account for recently identified differences in strain-rate sensitivity between uniaxial-strain ‘‘plate slap’’ data compared to uniaxial-stress Kolsky bar data. A description is given of how this work supports ongoing efforts to develop a predictive capability in simulating deformation and failure of natural geological materials, including those that contain structural features such as joints and other spatial heterogeneities.

Available online:

Verification Research: The method of manufactured solutions (MMS)

MMS stands for “Method of Manufactured Solutions,” which is a rather sleazy sounding name for what is actually a respected and rigorous method of verifying that a finite element (or other) code is correctly solving the governing equations.

A simple introduction to MMS may be found on page 11 of The ASME guide for verification and validation in solid mechanics. The basic idea is to analytically determine forcing functions that would lead to a specific, presumably nontrivial, solution (of your choice) for the dependent variable of a differential equation.  Then you would verify a numerical solver for that differential equation by running it using your analytically determined forcing function.  The difference between the code’s prediction and your selected manufactured solution provides a quantitative measure of error.

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Stress State Analysis Python Script

General Mohr's Circle for 3D Stress State

General Mohr's Circle for 3D Stress State

Have you ever had a stress state and wanted to simply get the principal stresses without finding a web applet to do it for you? Or maybe you want to know what the deviatoric part of the stress is without finding and using a copy of MATLAB or Mathematica to do the matrix operations for you? This script was written to help answer those questions in as little time as possible with an intuitive command line input syntax.

This script was written in Python ( and makes use of the NumPy module ( Python is a fairly platform independent programming language with more and more programs being dependent on it on all platforms. The NumPy module adds significant scientific computation power to the language by adding N-dimensional matrix support, matrix operations, LAPACK functions (matrix inverse, eigenvalue and eigenvector decompositions, etc.), among other things.

You can download the script here.

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Reciprocating edge-load wear test of artificial hip bearings

Movie: edge load wear test of hip prostheses

This short movie shows a novel wear test for artificial hip bearings. This test focuses on what may be the most severely damaging scenario that artificial hips experience in the human body. In some patients, the hip joint may partly separate under certain circumstances, and when that happens, the typically congruent contact between the ball and socket can quickly become a non-conforming contact between the ball and the socket’s edge. In that scenario, the contact between the ball and socket has the potential to cause increased wear, because the contact stress is much greater.

hip wear test set-up

The test apparatus applies a horizontal load to the femoral head (the ball), which forces the head into contact with the socket’s edge. Meanwhile, the acetabular liner is reciprocated up and down at a rate of 1 cycle per second. Several aspects of the test set-up may be configured as desired, including the magnitude of the horizontal force, the orientation of the acetabular liner, and the speed of reciprocation.

This test method is yielding valuable information about the performance of artificial hip bearings under worst case conditions. The findings of several focused studies will be published in the scientific literature relevant to the field of orthopedic implants and joint arthroplasty.

Publication: Conjugate stress and strain caveats /w distortion and deformation distinction

The publication, “Caveats concerning conjugate stress and strain measures (click to download)” contains an analytical solution for the stress in a fiber reinforced composite in the limit as the matrix material goes to zero stiffness. Because the solution is exact for arbitrarily large deformations, it is a great test case for verification of anisotropic elasticity codes, and it nicely illustrates several subtle concepts in large-deformation continuum mechanics.


Also see related viewgraphs entitled “The distinction between large distortion and large deformation.”