Prof Bathe looks at multi-physical behaviour

Professor Klaus-Jürgen Bathe, one of the key pioneers in computational mechanics has recently been awarded the distinction of a honoris cause doctorate by UTC. Professor Bathe was born in 1943 he was recruited by the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT (Cambridge USA) in 1975. His combined teaching, research and industrial development work have made him a world-class, reputed specialist in the field of computational mechanics. He offers ‘Interactions’ readers his views on the specialty and its future prospects.

Prof Bathe looks at multi-physical behaviour

Professor Bathe, can you define computational mechanics in simple terms?

The techniques of computational mechanics consist of forming a computer based model for the purpose of modelling a real, physical, process. The latter can be an existing reality or be incorporated in a prediction of something physical that may occur. To illustrate this, a model of the Golden Gate Bridge at San Francisco was established to evaluate the bridge's resistance to various levels and forms of earthquake and to identify several configurations where the bridge would be seriously damaged or even destroyed. Computational mechanics can be seen as the art of predicting the future with a computer.

What are your best success stories in the field?

We developed and finalized novel computation mechanical processes commonly found and used today in both industrial and academic sectors. It was this work that led to the creation of a company, ADINA R&D, in 1986, where our development work covers a wide range of modelling tools used in solid-state and structural physics, in electromagnetic applications, in thermo-mechanical engineering and in fluid mechanics. Handing down this knowledge has also been a non-negligible part of my activities, with numerous university courses and several books edited in German, Russian, Japanese, in Chinese and even in Iranian Farsi languages.

In engineering sciences, what are the challenges attached to computational mechanics?

Today's challenges focus on the infinitely small and, at the time, on large-scale phenomena. For example, modelling objects such as cells, DNA strings or other nanometric structures brings with it new problems. These structures and phenomena implies using approaches that simultaneously require various physics specialties such as fluid and gas mechanics, electromagnetism, or physico-chemical behavioural reactions. Large-scale phenomena such a major bridge construction work or understanding climates and weather conditions present the same order of difficulties, because of their multi-physical, multi-scale characteristic features.