Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering

Committee Member

Georges Fadel, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Gregory M. Mocko

Committee Member

Lonny Thompson

Committee Member

Joshua Levine


The objective of this research is to understand the fundamental relationships necessary to develop a method to optimize both the topology and the internal gradient material distribution of a single object while meeting constraints and conflicting objectives. Functionally gradient material (FGM) objects possess continuous varying material properties throughout the object, and they allow an engineer to tailor individual regions of an object to have specific mechanical properties by locally modifying the internal material composition. A variety of techniques exists for topology optimization, and several methods exist for FGM optimization, but combining the two together is difficult. Understanding the relationship between topology and material gradient optimization enables the selection of an appropriate model and the development of algorithms, which allow engineers to design high-performance parts that better meet design objectives than optimized homogeneous material objects. For this research effort, topology optimization means finding the optimal connected structure with an optimal shape. FGM optimization means finding the optimal macroscopic material properties within an object. Tailoring the material constitutive matrix as a function of position results in gradient properties. Once, the target macroscopic properties are known, a mesostructure or a particular material nanostructure can be found which gives the target material properties at each macroscopic point. This research demonstrates that topology and gradient materials can both be optimized together for a single part. The algorithms use a discretized model of the domain and gradient based optimization algorithms. In addition, when considering two conflicting objectives the algorithms in this research generate clear 'features' within a single part. This tailoring of material properties within different areas of a single part (automated design of 'features') using computational design tools is a novel benefit of gradient material designs A macroscopic gradient can be achieved by varying the microstructure or the mesostructures of an object. The mesostructure interpretation allows for more design freedom since the mesostructures can be tuned to have non-isotropic material properties. A new algorithm called Bi-level Optimization of Topology using Targets (BOTT) seeks to find the best distribution of mesostructure designs throughout a single object in order to minimize an objective value. On the macro level, the BOTT algorithm optimizes the macro topology and gradient material properties within the object. The BOTT algorithm optimizes the material gradient by finding the best constitutive matrix at each location with the object. In order to enhance the likelihood that a mesostructure can be generated with the same equivalent constitutive matrix, the variability of the constitutive matrix is constrained to be an orthotropic material. The stiffness in the X and Y directions (of the base coordinate system) can change in addition to rotating the orthotropic material to align with the loading at each region. Second, the BOTT algorithm designs mesostructures with macroscopic properties equal to the target properties found in step one while at the same time the algorithm seeks to minimize material usage in each mesostructure. The mesostructure algorithm maximizes the strain energy of the mesostructures unit cell when a pseudo strain is applied to the cell. A set of experiments reveals the fundamental relationship between target cell density and the strain (or pseudo strain) applied to a unit cell and the output effective properties of the mesostructure. At low density, a few mesostructure unit cell design are possible, while at higher density the mesostructure unit cell designs have many possibilities. Therefore, at low densities the effective properties of the mesostructure are a step function of the applied pseudo strain. At high densities, the effective properties of the mesostructure are continuous function of the applied pseudo strain. Finally, the macro and mesostructure designs are coordinated so that the macro and meso levels agree on the material properties at each macro region. In addition, a coordination effort seeks to coordinate the boundaries of adjacent mesostructure designs so that the macro load path is transmitted from one mesostructure design to its neighbors. The BOTT algorithm has several advantages over existing algorithms within the literature. First, the BOTT algorithm significantly reduces the computational power required to run the algorithm. Second, the BOTT algorithm indirectly enforces a minimum mesostructure density constraint which increases the manufacturability of the final design. Third, the BOTT algorithm seeks to transfer the load from one mesostructure to its neighbors by coordinating the boundaries of adjacent mesostructure designs. However, the BOTT algorithm can still be improved since it may have difficulty converging due to the step function nature of the mesostructure design problem at low density.



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