Visiting researcher Dr. Douglas Spearot on predicting plasticity and its benefits for industry

Visiting researcher Dr. Douglas Spearot is hopeful that his collaboration with IMDEA Materials will result in improved simulation techniques to predict plasticity and microstructure evolution in metals, providing key benefits for the aeronautical and automotive industries. 

Dr. Spearot has joined IMDEA Materials for a nine-month research stay from the University of Florida (USA). His time at the Institute has been made possible thanks to the María de Maeztu program, funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, with the aim of improving the quality and impact of research conducted in Spain.

While here, the 45-year-old will be working with the Institute’s Bio/Chemo/Mechanics of Materials group led by Prof. Javier Llorca and the Modelling and Simulation of Materials Processing group led by Dr. Damien Tourret.

A central component of Dr. Spearot’s research focus is on advancing the field of Discrete Dislocation Dynamics (DDD), a simulation technique which allows the modelling of plastic deformation on a small length scale. Plasticity is the ability of a solid material to permanently deform without fracture.

 “The main application for this research is to be able to develop more faithful models of metal plasticity,” Dr. Spearot explained. “There are many industries like the aerospace or the automotive industry that use models for metal plasticity in their designs.”

“Now, those models are built off a lot of assumptions which might not be extendable, or which might not be able to be extrapolated to more complicated situations, or when dealing with new materials.”

“So, our end goal is to be able to provide more faithful, physics-based simulations of metal plasticity so that industry can use these models to improve their design processes.”

Before taking on his current position at the University of Florida seven years ago, Dr. Spearot was a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a member of the Institute for Nanoscience and Engineering at the University of Arkansas from 2005 to 2015.

While at IMDEA Materials, Dr. Spearot will also be involved in the development and use of atomistic simulation techniques with a particular focus on the behaviour of solid-liquid interfaces.

This, he said, would tie into IMDEA Materials’ research into improved metal additive manufacturing techniques.

“In metal additive manufacturing, you often end up in situations where you have regions of melted material and regions of solidified material, and there is an interface between those solid and liquid states,” Dr. Spearot said. “The properties of that interface are very difficult to determine via experimental techniques.

“What I plan to do is use atomistic simulations to study the properties of this interface so Dr. Tourret and his group can feed that data into their models and simulations and get more predictive simulations of additive manufacturing processes.”

Dr. Spearot, meanwhile, said he was hopeful that his nine-month stay would prove just the first step in a long-term partnership between IMDEA Materials and the University of Florida.

Such a partnership could lead to future collaborations and opportunities for PhD students from both institutions.

Dr. Spearot is one of a number of researchers at IMDEA Materials who has been able to take advantage of funding through the various Maria de Maeztu programs, which also include International PhDs and its Mobility Program.