March 3, 2011 -- Computer scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have improved software that can take much of the guesswork out of difficult materials development and environmental simulation problems.
|Figure: Once provided with a microscope's image of a composite material, OOF software can help analyze the effects of the material's internal structure on stress. Using OOF, researchers can identify the different substances (blue and gray areas) that make up the material and compute their response to stress or other effects, providing clues about how the overall sample will behave. Credit: Langer, NIST|
The software package, OOF (Object-Oriented Finite element analysis) is a specialized tool to help materials designers understand how stress and other factors act on a material with a complex internal structure, as is the case with many alloys and ceramics. As its starting point, OOF uses micrograph images of a material taken by a microscope. At the simplest level, OOF is designed to answer questions like, “I know what this material looks like and what it's made of, but I wonder what would happen if I pull on it in different ways?” or “I have a picture of this stuff and I know that different parts expand more than others as temperature increases; I wonder where the stresses are greatest?”
OOF has been available in previous versions since 1998. The new version (2.1) adds a number of improvements:
- improves OOF's ability to envision non-linear behavior, such as large-scale deformation, which plays a significant role in many types of stress response;
- allows users to analyze a material's performance over time, not just under static conditions as was the case previously;
- templates allow programmers to plug in their own details and formulas describing a particular substance.
Later this year, the team expects to enable users to analyze three-dimensional micrographs of a material, rather than the 2D "slices" that can be analyzed at this point.
OOF is available for free download at http://www.ctcms.nist.gov/oof/oof2/. The package runs on Unix like systems, including Linux, OS X and Linux-like environments within Windows.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department.