Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Mechanical Engineering


Mica, Grujicic

Committee Member

Jay, Ochterbeck

Committee Member

Chenning, Tong


Despite the clear benefits offered by more advanced transparent materials, (e.g. transparent ceramics offer a very attractive combination of high stiffness and high hardness levels, highly-ductile transparent polymers provide superior fragment-containing capabilities, etc.), ballistic ceramic-glass like fused-silica remains an important constituent material in a majority of transparent impact-resistant structures (e.g. windshields and windows of military vehicles, portholes in ships, ground vehicles and spacecraft) used today. Among the main reasons for the wide-scale use of glass, the following three are most frequently cited: (i) glass-structure fabrication technologies enable the production of curved, large surface-area, transparent structures with thickness approaching several inches; (ii) relatively low material and manufacturing costs; and (iii) compositional modifications, chemical strengthening, and controlled crystallization have been demonstrated to be capable of significantly improving the ballistic properties of glass. In the present work, the potential of high-pressure devitrification and densification of fused-silica as a ballistic-resistance-enhancement mechanism is investigated computationally. In the first part of the present work, all-atom molecular-level computations are carried out to infer the dynamic response and material microstructure/topology changes of fused silica subjected to ballistic impact by a nanometer-sized hard projectile. The analysis was focused on the investigation of specific aspects of the dynamic response and of the microstructural changes such as the deformation of highly sheared and densified regions, and the conversion of amorphous fused silica to SiO2 crystalline allotropic modifications (in particular, α-quartz and stishovite). The microstructural changes in question were determined by carrying out a post-processing atom-coordination procedure. This procedure suggested the formation of high-density stishovite (and perhaps α-quartz) within fused silica during ballistic impact. To rationalize the findings obtained, the all-atom molecular-level computational analysis is complemented by a series of quantum-mechanics density functional theory (DFT) computations. The latter computations enable determination of the relative potential energies of the fused silica, α-quartz and stishovite under ambient pressure (i.e. under their natural densities) as well as under imposed (as high as 50 GPa) pressures (i.e. under higher densities) and shear strains. In addition, the transition states associated with various fused-silica devitrification processes were identified. In the second part of the present work, the molecular-level computational results obtained in the first portion of the work are used to enrich a continuum-type constitutive model (that is, the so-called Johnson-Holmquist-2, JH2, model) for fused silica. Since the aforementioned devitrification and permanent-densification processes modify the response of fused silica to the pressure as well as to the deviatoric part of the stress, changes had to be made in both the JH2 equation of state and the strength model. To assess the potential improvements with respect to the ballistic-penetration resistance of this material brought about by the fused-silica devitrification and permanent-densification processes, a series of transient non-linear dynamics finite element analyses of the transverse impact of a fused-silica test plate with a solid right-circular cylindrical steel projectile was conducted. The results obtained revealed that, provided the projectile incident velocity and, hence, the attendant pressure, is sufficiently high, fused silica can undergo impact-induced energy-consuming devitrification, which improves its ballistic-penetration resistance.

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