The following is an excerpt.

SFI CASA Professors Odd Sture Hopperstad, Tore Børvik and colleagues have just received a 30 million NOK Toppforsk grant to investigate new ways of designing aluminium structures against failure.

Professors Tore Børvik, left, and Odd Sture Hopperstad are obviously pleased to have obtained the 30 million NOK grant.
Professors Tore Børvik, left, and Odd Sture Hopperstad are obviously pleased to have obtained the 30 million NOK grant.

The title of their project is “Microstructure-based Modelling of Ductile Fracture in Aluminium Alloys”, abbreviated: “FractAl”.

“What we are aiming at is to enable design of both material and structure in an optimal combination without having to use time-consuming and expensive mechanical tests,” Hopperstad and Børvik explain.


In popular speak

An attempt at a popularized explanation of their ambition might go like this:

Imagine you understand better than anyone before you what happens when aluminium breaks. Imagine you know the properties of different alloys down to nano level and how the atoms react to different kinds of strain. Imagine you are able to build models that identify the optimal combination of alloy and structural component with much less tests. Then you have saved a lot of money and laid the foundation for vastly improved products and production processes.


Only the best

Grants from the FRIPRO Toppforsk scheme of the Norwegian Research Council are highly prestigious and aim at world leadership. In this case, it gives core team Hopperstad, Børvik and Ole Runar Myhr from NTNU’s Structural Impact Laboratory along with partners Ahmed Benallal from French University ENS Cachan and Jonas Faleskog from Swedish KTH the opportunity to “develop and validate a novel microstructure-based modelling framework for ductile fracture in aluminium alloys – thus reliably introducing multi-scale simulation in design of aluminium design against failure”.

This is basic research with no strings attached. The five year project involves four PhD candidates and two post docs and is financed by the Norwegian Research Council and NTNU. Start-up is in August this year.



If there ever was a win-win situation, this is one. SFI CASA stands to reap great benefits from the research. Where CASA is a 300 million NOK eight year programme working on structural analysis of steel, aluminium, polymers and glass, Toppforsk enables researchers to dedicate a concentrated effort in a very specific area. The challenges of FractAl could have been approached through CASA, but not to the same extent and in such detail.

The outcome for CASA is a big hunk of scientific findings being made available for the partners by help of the SIMLab Tool Box, where everything will be implemented. In this way, 30 million NOKs worth of research will give an important boost to the rest of CASA’s activity.

Since this is basic research, results will be published in peer reviewed journals and available to the public.


Same people on SAB

The close relationship between the FractAl project and CASA is underlined by the composition of the project’s Scientific Advisory Board, consisting of CASA Director Magnus Langseth and CASA Scientific Advisory Board members John Hutchinson and David Embury.

“We are very happy to have them on board, both because of their capacities and because their double position will help us avoid overlapping work in the two programmes,” Hopperstad and Børvik underline.

The international partners Benallal and Faleskog are leading international researchers within their fields. While Benallal is a long-standing professional companion, the collaboration with Faleskog is more recent. The five researchers also complement each other scale-wise, ranging from Myhr at nano level to Børvik at the top.


Heading for the ERC

It is an explicit requirement for the Toppforsk grant that the project will file an application for a grant from the European Research Council. In the recent international evaluation of Basic and Long-term Research within Engineering Science in Norway, SIMLab received top score on scientific quality, productivity, relevance and impact for the society, illustrating the group’s world-leading position.

So, when you are world-leading, where do you go? Triggered by their faculty, Hopperstad, Børvik and colleagues decided to go for a Toppforsk grant which will in turn direct them towards the ERC.

Sometimes, uncovering the secrets of a very specific area of research can bring the big picture significant steps ahead. The topic for the project is an area where SIMLab is already world-leading. FractAl aims at consolidating this position.


Thanks to SIMLab

Today, Odd Sture Hopperstad and Tore Børvik are Research Director and Vice Director at SFI CASA, respectively. They strongly emphasize that qualifying for the Toppforsk grant would have been impossible without the foundation they have been part of in the SIMLab research group.

Interaction between the two programmes CASA and FractAl will be strong and was stressed as an important feature in the application for the Toppforsk grant.


PS: Article slightly modified 8 March.