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New methods tackle a perplexing engineering concept

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Jerry Smith
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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Researchers at the University of Illinois are working to turn a complex materials design problem into an intuitive concept, understandable to engineers from novice to advanced experience levels.

The group developed guidelines to help understand materials engineered to become thicker when stretched.

This highly useful property, which is not commonly found in nature, has applications for protective sports equipment, body armor and biomedical devices.

The team presented their research at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference in Cleveland, Ohio, where they received the Freudenstein Young Investigator Award for their paper.

The materials these engineers are working with, called auxetics, do the just the opposite - they become thicker in the middle when stretched - a difficult concept to grasp, and that is a problem, said Girish Krishnan, a professor of industrial and enterprise systems engineering and study co-author.

"The existing methods for explaining the behavior and properties of auxetic materials are computationally intensive," Krishnan said.

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