2016 International Conference on High Performance and Optimum Design of Structures and Materials

pcr319 - 21 September 2016
Siena, Italy


200x250 HPSM16The 2016 International Conference on High Performance and Optimum Design of Structures and Materials took place in La Certosa di Pontignano of the University of Siena, organised by the Wessex Institute of the UK, represented by Professor Carlos A Brebbia, the Free University of Brussels, represented by Professor Patrick de Wilde, and the University of A Coruña, represented by Professor Santiago Hernandez.

The meeting followed the success of a series of conferences on Structures and Materials and their Optimum Design that started in Southampton as long ago as 1989. As the meetings evolved they gave rise to the current series, which started in Seville in 2002, followed by Ancona (2004), Ostend (2006), the Algarve (2008), Tallinn (2010), the New Forest, home of the Wessex Institute (2012) and Ostend (2014).

They have always provided a friendly and productive forum for the interchange of ideas and interaction amongst researchers, designers and scholars in the community to share advances in High Performance and Optimum Design of Structures and Materials.

The conference addressed advanced structural topics, particularly those based on new concepts and new materials. Most high performance structures require the development of a generation of new materials which can more easily resist a range of external forces or react in non-conventional manners. The conference also discussed topics related to high performance sustainable materials, including green concepts and technologies. Re-use and recyclability of materials and structural components is becoming increasingly important, ie supporting the “cradle to cradle” approach. Re-use is also found nowadays in two levels, not only from the re-use of structural components and materials but also the transformation of complete buildings, such as offices into schools or residential accommodation.

Papers presented at the conference were devoted to theoretical advances and practical applications of optimum design methodologies in several engineering disciplines. They demonstrated the current maturity of this design technique that has evolved with time from academic research to become a tool, useful to practising engineers. In fact, papers included in this conference originated not only from universities and research institutions but also from engineering companies. The papers were related to optimisation of concrete and steel bridges, special structures and mechanical engineering. The problems formulated were very diverse and included size, shape and topology optimisation, composite materials and a variety of nonlinear analysis.

The development and application of modern computational methods and powerful computers for structural modelling, control and management has increased the probabilities of using graphic interfaces and the incorporation of optimisation in the design process.

The papers presented at the conference reflected these advances and provided a state of the art view of some of the most recent advances in high performance structures and materials. They were published by WIT Press and available Open Access in the eLibrary of the Institute (http://www.witpress.com/elibrary) where they can be downloaded for free by the international community.

The meeting took place in La Certosa di Pontignano Conference Centre belonging to the University of Siena. The centre offers meeting rooms and accommodation facilities, in addition to catering services. It provides the right atmosphere for delegates to discuss problems of common interest and develop strong links.

The Centre, a former Benedictine Monastery, has three beautiful cloisters surrounded by cells and apartments. In the middle of the Main Cloister is a 13th century stone well and also leads to the entrance to the Church with frescoes from the 1500s and an organ, on which the conference recital was given.

On the opposite side of the Main Cloister a beautiful Italian-style garden is lovingly taken care of.

The Centre is one of the few still remaining Cistercian monasteries which preserve the original layout and all the main buildings in their original architecture, in spite of the damage suffered by the buildings during the wars between Siena and Florence, when the latter burnt down all the buildings in the middle of the 16th century. One hundred years later German and Spanish militia sacked the monastery. The monks rebuilt the Certosa on both occasions.

It was at the end of the 18th century when the order left the Certosa for good, transferring it to another order. This only lasted for a short time as the rule of Napoleon suppressed all convents and the buildings, with the exception of the Church, was sold to local families.

It was through the work of Professor Mario Bracci that a Company was created in 1939 to operate La Certosa which became a place of refuge for victims of political persecution. Finally, in 1959 the complex was purchased by the University of Siena.

Located in the middle of Tuscany countryside and with many frescos and architectural motives of the Renaissance period, the Certosa offers a unique event for the exchange of views amongst researchers. The Chianti countryside surrounding the buildings with its vines and olive trees provides the right landscape, with the inspiring view of Siena in the background.

Opening of the Conference

The meeting was opened by Carlos in the Bracci Conference room which was the old refectory and is decorated with frescoes by Potetti (16th century).

Carlos explained that the motivation to hold this meeting in La Certosa was in great part due to the Centre’s unique atmosphere, being most suitable for the advance of knowledge transfer amongst delegates from many different cultural backgrounds.

The Wessex Institute is committed through its series of conferences and courses to provide interchange of information and the development of joint projects and networks.

This commitment was reinforced by the decision to make all the papers published by WIT Press, the publishing arm of the Institute, Open Access. This initiative has dramatically increased the number of visitors to the digital library section of the Institute and ought to lead to a large number of citations for all the papers.

The Institute’s activities also comprise the continuous research and development of advanced computational tools, based in the Boundary Element Method, a technique that the research group set up as Wessex Institute in 1986 pioneered as early as the 1970’s when the WIT group was still part of Southampton University. The method, that now has gained wide acceptance in industry, is continuously being developed further and the resulting set of computer codes are being applied in industries as varied as aerospace, offshore engineering, automotive and many others.

The success of Boundary Elements, Carlos explained, set the basis for the creation of Wessex Institute.

Holding this meeting in Siena – Carlos explained – is also very relevant as the most prestigious prize offered by the Institute, ie the Prigogine Medal, was established in conjunction with the University of Siena in 2004, to commemorate the work of Nobel Prize Scientist Ilya Prigogine, whose work was the inspiration for some of the research on ecological systems started at that Institution by the late Professor Enzo Tiezzi. Prigogine was also the Honorary Chairman of one of the International Conferences organised by Wessex Institute, and the inspiration for the launching of the International Journal of Design and Nature with Ecodynamics of which he was to be the Honorary Editor-in-Chief before his much lamented departure in 2003.

The Prigogine Gold Medal is now an annual event which has been bestowed on several scientists who work on Ecodynamics and have been influenced by the ideas of the Nobel Prize Laureate.

Carlos ended his remarks by wishing all participants a very successful conference and thanking them for their support of the work of Wessex Institute.

Conference Themes

The papers presented at the meeting covered a wide variety of topics, grouped under the following themes:

  • Structural optimisation
  • Structures under extreme loads
  • Green composites
  • Joint technologies
  • Composites for automotive applications
  • Composite materials and structures

Keynote Addresses

There were a series of keynote addresses given by well-known researchers, which enhanced the conference, ie

  • “Towards a reliability approach to membrane structure design and analysis”, by Lincy Pyl, Free University of Brussels, Belgium.
  • “The role of surrogate models in combined aeroelastic and structural optimization of cable-stayed bridges with single box deck”, by Santiago Hernandez, University of A Coruña, Spain.
  • “Second-order analysis of a steel truss structure for the Hydropower Plant Dravograd”, by Stojan Kravanja, University of Maribor, Slovenia.
  • “Production of high quality coatings on light alloys using plasma electrolytic oxidation (PEO)”, by Derek Northwood, University of Windsor, Canada.
  • “Optimum size, position and number of cables in cable-stayed bridges”, by Aitor Baldomir, University of A Coruña, Spain.
  • “Comparing nano and macroindentation in search for microfibril angle in spruce”, by Michal Sejnoha, Czech Technical University, The Czech Republic.
  • “Mechanical characterisation of nanocellulose composites after structural modification”, by Hitoshi Takagi, Tokushima University, Japan.
  • “Design-optimization of precast-prestressed concrete road bridges with steel fiber-reinforcement by a hybrid evolutionary algorithm”, by Victor Yepes, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Spain.
  • “Residual flexural property of water absorbed CFRP during thermal cycling”, by Kenichi Takemura, Kanagawa University, Japan.

Special Sessions

The Conference included three outstanding special sessions arranged by Professors:

  • Hitoshi Takagi from Tokushima University
  • Kenichi Takemura from Kanagawa University
  • Kazuto Tanaka from Doshisha University

These comprised papers presented by younger researchers on topics related to Composites and a series of applications in engineering.

Organ Recital

An organ recital took place during one evening. The event took place in the ancient Church, where there is a classical Italian-style organ of the 1700’s with an excellent and very clear sound.

The concert organist was Pier Paolo Strona who has played at other Wessex Institute occasions. Pier Paolo retired from FIAT Aerospace Research to dedicate himself fully to his passion for music, continuing to develop a larger repertoire in piano and organ music.

He graduated in engineering from the Polytechnic of Torino, as well as obtaining a Diploma in Music from the renowned Bologna Conservatory. He had the distinction, when at FIAT, of having been the first to apply the Boundary Element Method code developed by the Southampton group to the analysis of aerospace components. Since then he has contributed as a research engineer and later as a musician with Wessex Institute.

His material included pieces by Zipoli (1688-1726), a Jesuit composer that had lived in the famous Paraguayan mission just before the time of the expulsion of the order from South America. Interestingly enough the pieces played by Pier Paolo were only recently discovered in an archive in Asuncion! Other composers were Byrd (Pavana); Hasse (Fuga in re minore); Pasquini (Partite sopra la Aria della Folia da Espagna); Galuppi (Andante, Allegro, Largo); and Seger (Fuga “de tempore Natalis”).

His performance was greatly appreciated by the audience who were particularly pleased by seeing a scientist having become such an accomplished performer.

At the end of the concert, Carlos expressed the gratitude of the participants for his performance and distributed amongst them a CD of music by Pier Paolo. This was entitled “Music from the New Forest” and contained a selection of Pier Paolo’s repertoire for piano. It includes 22 pieces from composers ranging from Mozart and Bach to Joplin and Gurdjieff, an evidence of Pier Paolo’s variety of musical interest.

Carlos also mentioned that Pier Paolo is a most accomplished photographer and that in addition to books on musicology (ie such as on Goldman’s variations of Bach) he has authored several photography books.

George Green Medal

The Conference programme included a special session dedicated to the award of the George Green Medal, as well as the presentation of two keynote addresses and several special papers.

The George Green Medal was established by the University of Mississippi at Oxford, Mississippi, USA and the Wessex Institute and is now supported by Elsevier. It is in honour of the man who single-handedly set up the basis for the modern Boundary Element Method, amongst other achievements.

George Green (1793-1841) was a self-taught genius who mysteriously delivered one of the most influential mathematics and physics works of all time. He educated himself in mathematics and self-published the work “An Essay on the Application of Mathematical Analysis to the Theories of Electricity and Magnetism”. In his very first article he derived the Green’s first, second and third identities, forged the concept of Green’s function, and solved the problem of electrical potential created by a single charge placed inside a spherical metal shell. The idea of Green’s function forever changed the landscape of science, as many physics and mathematics problems have been solved using this technique. As Green died early, and his work was discovered only posthumously, it remains a mystery today how Green could produce such a masterpiece without the guidance of a great teacher or school and, in fact, without a formal education. Only recently, due to the advent of powerful computers, has it been possible to take full advantage of Green’s pioneering developments.

The Medal is awarded to those scientists who have carried out original work with practical applications in the field of Boundary Elements and other Mesh Reduction Methods, continuing in this manner to further develop the pioneering ideas of George Green. They are also persons of the highest integrity who, by sharing their knowledge, have helped to establish research groups all around the world. The selection process is conducted by a panel of internationally recognised scientists. The Medal is given once a year and presented during the conference.

Carlos then proceeded to introduce the recipient of the Medal in 2016 who was Professor Alex Cheng. Alex obtained his PhD from Cornell University and is currently Dean of Engineering at the University of Mississippi. His research interests cover boundary element methods, mesh collection method, porous mechanics, nanomechanics, graduate modelling and saltwater intrusion.

He has authored five books and edited four speciality volumes and many conference proceedings. He has published nearly 200 articles in learned Journals. Alex served as President of Engineering Mechanics Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers and Vice President of the Academic Affairs of the American Institute of Hydrology. He is Editor-in Chief of the International Journal of Engineering Analysis with Boundary Elements and Associate Editor of the Journal of Transport in Porous Media.

He has been the recipient of the prestigious Maurice A Biot Medal and the Walter L Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize, both of ASCE. Alex twice received a Basic Research Award from the National Committee of Rock Mechanics, and the Eminent Scientist Award of the Wessex Institute. He is a Fellow and member of the Board of Directors of the same Institute.

After the Medal was presented, Professor Alex Cheng gave his keynote address “From BEM, Green’s Function, to meshless method – Personal reminiscence”.

The address was well received by the audience as it helped to explain in a clear manner the changes that have taken place in Boundary Element and other Mesh Reduction Methods since BEM was launched towards the end of the 1970’s.

His keynote presentation was followed by another by Professor Santiago Hernandez, on “International space stations: A successful history of mobile and deployable structures”.

The session concluded after coffee with a series of lectures on optimum design of a variety of structural shapes and systems. It ended with a short presentation, also by Alex Cheng, on the topic of “A Bio-inspired graphene composite material”.

At the end of the session, Carlos presented Alex Cheng with an antique map of the State of Mississippi. The map dates from 1852, pre-dates the Civil War and was part of an old Atlas commissioned by the American Congress.

Social Occasions and Close of the Conference

The International Scientific Advisory Committee (ISAC) of the Conference met over dinner to discuss new topics for the Conference and ways in which the meeting could be improved when it is reconvened. Several new topics were proposed as well as the manner in which the conference should evolve. Nominations were made for the ISAC and a discussion took place regarding the most suitable location for the next conference. WIT will investigate these locations as well as possible venues. The meeting was closed by the Chairmen expressing their gratitude to the committee members for their help in reviewing the conference papers and promoting the meeting.

There were numerous occasions for the delegates to meet informally and discuss topics of common interest. This happened during coffee and lunch breaks, as well as during the conference dinner.

One special short guided tour of Siena was arranged at the end of the last day to help the delegates to get to know each other better.

The participants were shown around the sights of the city of Siena by a professional guide. They saw the spectacular Piazza del Campo, which fan-like shape fits the natural shape of the ground and is surrounded by renaissance buildings and numerous monuments. This provides the backdrop for the Corsa del Palio, fast horse race held twice a year, which dates back to the 15th century, and is a tradition representing the different neighbourhoods and very dear to the Sienese.

They also visited the Duomo (Cathedral) of Siena which dates back to the 12th century. Unique mosaic marble works cover the whole floor which is displayed during September.

The guide briefly described some highlights of the history of Siena and pointed out the current use of many of the heritage buildings during the tour.

Following the excursion the delegates proceeded to have the Conference Dinner in a well-known restaurant that prepares medieval banquets following old recipes. The restaurant itself is located in an old building dating from the 12th century. The excellent and unusual dishes were accompanied by a good selection of regional wines, including some of the red Chianti Vino Nobile for which Tuscany is renowned. Their qualities were described by a Sommelier who also explained the different procedures and types of grapes used in their making.

The evening was most pleasant and the delegates were able to enjoy each other’s company in a relaxed atmosphere.

The Conference was closed by Carlos who thanked the delegates for coming and hoped that they would attend other WIT Conferences.

Related Meetings

Contact and Surface 2017
Materials Characterisation 2017
CMEM 2017