Smart Structures Laboratory
The Smart Structures Laboratory is paving the way for the next generation of structures and construction materials to be thoroughly tested and to provide industry and consumers with the necessary level of confidence in performance and safety.
Swinburne's innovative Smart Structures Laboratory forms part of the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Digital Construction and conducts research over a broad range of infrastructure related areas, including large-scale testing of new engineering materials and components.
The laboratory's director, Professor Riadh Al-Mahaidi, is an international leader in the field of bridge engineering, structural systems and structural retrofitting using fibre-reinforced polymer composites. He is joined in the facility by Professor John Wilson, earthquake engineering, Professor Emad Gad, structural engineering, and Professor Jay Sanjayan, geopolymers.
The only one of its kind in Australia, the $15 million laboratory is located at Hawthorn campus in the architecturally striking Advanced Technologies Centre and features transparent walls, allowing passers-by to watch researchers and scientists at work. The testing facility is available to other Australian universities and to government and industry bodies.
The laboratory's research outcomes are expected to lead to the development of more efficient infrastructure systems and safer buildings, bridges, offshore structures and mining structures. Economic and social benefits should come from more resilient, robust and efficient infrastructure constructed with innovative materials designed to lower costs, improve energy efficiency, and reduce environmental impacts generally. All this has the potential to lift the international competitiveness of Australian construction and manufacturing industries.
It [the laboratory's hybrid testing facility] minimises error because we are able to test the full-scale component, like a support column, which is far more realistic than a small-scale model…Of course this system is not just about earthquakes, but wind loads on buildings, heavy traffic on a bridge, blasts, impacts, ocean waves, materials fatigue … any source of pressure or stress on a structure.
Professor Riadh Al-Mahaidi
Professor of Structural Engineering and Director, Smart Structures Laboratory
Multi-axis substructure testing (MAST) system
Multi-Axis Substructure Testing (MAST) system
The laboratory houses Australia's first hybrid testing facility – the Multi-Axis Substructure Testing (MAST) system – cutting-edge technology used to test the integrity of new materials and structures. The MAST system allows researchers to stress-test structural components and materials to determine a structure or material's capacity to withstand extreme forces (a building's capacity to withstand an earthquake, for example).
An outline of the laboratory and its specialised large-scale quasti-static and cyclic testing equipment, including the MAST, Hybrid Simulation and other equipment and instrumentation.
Swinburne's Smart Structure Laboratory list of non-destructive equipment.
Equipment for large-scale experiments
Instron 5MN Four-Column Static Testing Machine
MTS 1MN Hydraulic Universal Testing Machine
MTS 250 kN Dynamic UTM Model 819 High Rate Test Machine
|Instron 8801 100 kN Dynamic Testing Machine With Temperature Chamber
Instron Very High-Speed Testing Machine (Model VHS)
|MTS Electro-Magnetic Machine (Model 43) 50kN Static
Areas of laboratory research
Research Impact and Engagement
The Smart Structures Laboratory is involved in an ongoing series of large-scale research and consulting projects. The advanced equipment and instrumentation that are available allow a broad range of projects to be undertaken including:
- Large-scale 6-DOF hybrid simulation of structures under extreme events.
- Large-scale 6-DOF quasi-static and cyclic tests of structural components such as beams, wall panels, connections, and underground mine supports.
- Large-scale pendulum impact testing
- Large-scale High-Cycle Fatigue (HCF) testing
- Material testing including concrete, steel, timber and composites
- Fire testing of panels, cylinders and short columns
Research Impact and Engagement:
The SSL has been committed to significantly contribute to 2025 Swinburne strategic plan on achieving the goals of the research with impact, future-ready learners and innovative enterprise. It provides a wide range of service to research and teaching missions of Swinburne as briefly summarized below:
Services - Internal:
- +20 full-time highly-productive academic staff in School of Engineering use the SSL for research and teaching.
- +50 PhD (+25 completed, +25 current) students at Swinburne use the SSL for research.
- +15 PhD students from other organization (e.g. Melbourne and Monash Universities) use the SSL for research.
- +250 undergraduate and post-graduate students at Swinburne use the SSL for demonstrations in several units and courses including Steel Design, Concrete Design, Strengthening and Monitoring, Final-Year Research Project, and others.
- The SSL heavily serves Swinburne for promotional and marketing activities. The SSL works closely with Collaboration and Partnerships, International Recruitment, Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor (International), and others, to conduct presentations and tours (on average 1-2 tours per week) for various delegates from national and international universities, industry collaborators and government organizations.
- The SSL also attracts significant attention during the Open Day and Student Competition every year, by conducting several live demonstrations using the state-of-the-art structural testing equipment such as MAST (Australia’s first Hybrid testing Facility)
Services - External:
More than 60 research and development engineering consulting projects have been completed in the SSL during the past couple of years. A number of collaborating organizations are listed below:
Mining and Energy:
- WH Warren Medal by the Board of the College of Civil Engineers of Engineers Australia for the best paper in the discipline of civil engineering “Development and validation of multi-axis substructure testing system for full-scale experiments” (M. J. Hashemi, R. Al-Mahaidi, R. Kalfat, G. Burnett), (2017), (News).
- Innovation, Research and Development (High Commendation) for the development of the “Multi-Axis Substructure Testing (MAST) System” by Engineers Australia at the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards (AEEA), (2016).