Our Centenary Year

Civil & Structural Engineering

René de Borst

Centenary Professor René de Borst’s research concentrates on computer simulations of material and structural behaviour, which aims to make structures more durable, robust and resilient to extreme loading. Professor de Borst believes that we need to broaden our scope of research to address modern, complex, inter-disciplinary engineering challenges.

He uses numerical techniques to predict strength, durability and failure of a wide range of materials and structures in civil, mechanical and aerospace engineering. By applying simple solutions over small areas, he can group them to create larger systems of equations, write algorithms to solve these complex models and automate the process. This means that the fundamental rules for elementary blocks can be applied to whole structures, allowing large-scale, simulated predictions. René’s modelling allows virtual prototyping, avoids expensive physical testing, and helps to optimise materials and structures for maximum strength, durability and safety, using the least resources.

However, pure mechanics cannot solve our modern engineering challenges. René’s research therefore extends into the interaction between material and structural behaviour, and fluid transport and heat transfer through materials. When necessary, chemical effects are also considered. Indeed, modern challenges blend various disciplines and there is a diversity of applications for traditional engineering models. René believes we must work towards more innovative and wider-ranging solutions to the challenges we face.

Some applications of René’s research are:

  1. Hydraulic fracturing – to understand how fracture propagates in fluid-saturated materials.
  2. Geothermal fluids in nuclear waste storage – to predict how contaminated fluid moves.
  3. The human body – cell motility is governed by mechanics, chemistry and engineering. Better understanding could for example help to understand how cancer cells spread.
  4. Earthquake prediction – to predict forces, deformations and collapse.