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Fatigue: Still A Problem Despite Its Long History

A lecture of Prof. Rod Smith

Nov 11, 2005 from 03:00 PM to 04:00 PM

Where Engineering Faculty, Viale del Risorgimento, 2

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If many repeated cycles of loading are applied to components, they can eventually fail due to a process called fatigue. The problem was initially identified in the early days of the railways about 160 years ago. Not only metals fail by fatigue, plastics, composites and many natural materials, including bone, wood and ice, also suffer.
Our understanding of fatigue has improved enormously over the years. A combination of theory, experimental observation and improved methods of stress analysis, has enabled us to better comprehend what is happening at a microscopic level and to apply this knowledge to macroscopic situations.
The lecture will summarise our present state of knowledge. But these great strides in our understanding have not eliminated fatigue failures in many practical applications. We will discuss why this anomaly has arisen and the pressures on designers which make fatigue hard to avoid. The lecture will conclude with some suggestions for further research, both into fatigue as a phenomenon and into better ways of quantifying the real loads acting on components in service.