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.

Professor John Wilson and Professor Riadh Al-Mahaidi discussing the Smart Structure Lab and its revolutionary space for researchers to test the strength of building materials.

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

Virtual tour

Click for a virtual tour of the Smart Structures Lab.

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). 

Sample projects

State-of-the-art equipment

  • PDF

    Smart structures lab [PDF_1684KB]

    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.

Equipment for large-scale experiments



Instron 5MN Four-Column Static Testing Machine

  • 5,000 kN Compression static force capacity
  • 3,500 kN Tension static force capacity
  • Four-column, high-stiffness, and load frame chamber volume 1.0 m x 0.6 m x 2.65 m
  • Hydraulic lift and locks of upper crosshead
  • Actuator in upper crosshead
  • Dynacell load cell features compensation for inertial loads caused by heavy fixtures
  • Long horizontal three or four point bending tests can be reacted through structural floor
Smart Structures Lab machine.

MTS 1MN Hydraulic Universal Testing Machine

  • Static Force Rating: ±1,000 kN
  • Dynamic Force Rating: ±750 kN
  • Test volume inside four column load frame: 1.0 m x 0.6 m x 3.5 m
  • Integrated Data Acquition 16 channels
MTS Test Suite for conducting these tests:
  • Low/High-cycle fatigue
  • Fatigue crack growth and fracture toughness
  • Crack propagation
  • Component strength and durability
  • Dynamic characterization damping
  • Tension, Compression, Bending, Shear
  • Long Bending tests reacted through floor 
 Smart Structures Lab machine.

MTS 250 kN Dynamic UTM Model 819 High Rate Test Machine

  • Up to ±250 kN static force capacity
  • Up to ±200 kN dynamic force capacity
  • Twin-column, high-stiffness, and precision-aligned load frame
  • Hydraulic Lift and Locks of upper crosshead
  • Dual servo valve system providing high speed single shot or lower speed conventional static and cyclic testing
  • Hydraulic grips, fixtures, and accessories
  • MTS Basic Testware, Multipurpose TestWare and MPE Test Suite software
  • Integrated Data Acquisition including up to eight strain and eight voltage based; displacement, load or strain transducers.
 A large piece of engineering equipment.
Instron 8801 100 kN Dynamic Testing Machine With Temperature Chamber
  • Up to ±100 kN Static Axial force capacity
  • Up to ±70 kN Dynamic Axial force capacity
  • Dynacell load cell features compensation for inertial loads caused by grips and fixtures
  • Maximum Specimen length ~560 mm Compression of ~400 mm Tension
  • Wide range of grips, fixtures, and accessories
  • Temperature Controlled chamber capable of holding or cycling between -80 and + 600 Degrees Celsius
  • Video Extensometer for high precision measurement in Temperature Chamber.
 A large piece of engineering equipment.

Instron Very High-Speed Testing Machine (Model VHS)

  • 60 kN Maximum
  • 25 MPS Max Velocity
  • Test volume in chamber: 750 mm x 750 mm x 1000 mm
  • Data acquisition: High speed acquisition of force and displacement data
  • Standard tests: Quasi-static compression, tension, bending, etc.
 A large piece of engineering equipment.
MTS Electro-Magnetic Machine (Model 43) 50kN Static
  • Load frame configuration: 2-column, Tabletop (integrated), Electromechanical ±50 kN Static
  • Data Acquisition: 2 Axis video extensometer 2 Clip-on extensometers
  • Typical specimens: small components, reinforced plastics, metals, wire, composites, elastomers, wood products, textiles, biomaterials, paper products, adhesives, foam, consumer products.
 A large piece of engineering equipment.

Other Equipment

  • High torque actuator
  • 5 Environmental chambers with various sizes and capabilities including Co2
  • Floor shaker, controller, high sensitivity accelerometers and modal analysis software for vibration studies
  • VSTARS photogrammetry systems including VSTARS-D system capable of measuring at 10Hz n VIC 3D Correlated Solution
  • Video extensometers
  • MTS Laser extensometer
  • 1000 Degrees celsius six zone furnaces
  • Large number of load cells with various static and dynamic capabilities
  • Precision LVDTs, LDTs and laser displacement transducers ranging from 2.5mm to 200mm
  • Multiple National Instruments PXI data acquisitions systems with more than 200 channels
  • Data Physics data acquisition system for dynamic measurements
  • Concrete lab


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: 

Building Services:
Image of business logos.
Automotive and Transportation:
Image of business logos.

Mining and Energy:

Image of business logos.

Image of business logos.

Image of business logos.
Smart structures lab, Swinburne university.


  • 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).



Smart Structures Laboratory
Phone: +61 3 9214 8639