Abstract: Fibrous structures comprise a large percentage of engineering materials found in both synthetic and biological composite systems. At the heart of these materials reside the single fibers themselves that possess unique physical properties and govern the overall mechanical behavior of the system. From a multiscale perspective, one must fully understand mechanical properties at both the molecular scale and the microscale in order to understand the mechanical properties at the composite level. In this presentation, I will discuss two projects that underscore the importance of understanding fiber mechanical behavior with relevance to nanocomposite and bioengineering applications.
In the area of nanocomposites, the presentation will focus on the mechanical behavior of poly(ethylene terephthalate) nanocomposite fibers and their susceptibility to degradation and failure in dynamic applications where fatigue and creep stresses are dominant. I will discuss both experimental and modeling techniques that were used to quantify this degradation in the nanocomposite fibers. In the area of bioengineering, the presentation will be focused on research efforts aimed at understanding the mechanical behavior and elasticity of fibrin fibers, which are the main constituents of blood clots (thrombi). Blood clots form in response to vascular injury or can also form in cases of undesired and excessive coagulation, due to diseases such as diabetes or cancer. In both situations, the result is the formation of a protein polymer network comprised primarily of fibrin fibers. Because individual fibrin fibers provide the structure and integrity of thrombi, they must be able to resist physical forces generated by blood flow and cellular invasion. Due to this role, one of the main questions that has arisen in the field of bioengineering research is: What governs the elasticity and mechanical behavior of fibrin fibers? Specifically, I will present modeling and experimental techniques that are being developed to understand molecular mechanisms that govern the mechanical behavior of fibrin fibers and to illuminate how these ultimately affect the multiscale mechanical behavior of blood clot structures.
Biography: Dr. Rodney Averett is a Research Engineer in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering and Institute for Bioengineering & Bioscience at Georgia Tech. His research involves mechanics and modeling of biological and synthetic polymeric fibers and composites, with emphasis on multiscale analysis and molecular mechanisms governing mechanical behavior. Dr. Averett received his Bachelor of Science (2000) and Master of Science (2004) degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. (2008) from the Georgia Institute of Technology in the area of Polymer Science, where his dissertation work was focused on developing models to ascertain how fatigue loading engenders degradation and failure in nanocomposite fibers. Dr. Averett completed a postdoc in Biomedical Engineering (2012) from Georgia Tech & Emory University School of Medicine. Dr. Averett is a 2012 recipient of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) K01 Research Scientist Development Award