World's fastest camera helps URI researcher
study how things break apart
KINGSTON, R.I. -- July 19, 2000 -- With the ability to take pictures
at a speed of 200 million frames per second, Arun Shukla's high-speed camera
can make even the fastest moving objects look like they are standing still.
In an effort to assist the military and a variety of industries, he is
using this one-of-a-kind technology to study how things break apart.
"With this camera we can freeze the motion of anything that happens
quickly," explained Shukla, distinguished professor of mechanical engineering
at the University of Rhode Island and director of URI's Dynamic Photomechanics
Lab. "It opens up a lot of possibilities for innovative research."
The camera was purchased through a $457,000 Major Research Instrumentation
Grant from the National Science Foundation.
Shukla's primary focus is on studying catastrophic, rapid failures of
structures, body armor, and other materials. He wants to know how these
materials break apart, how much force it takes to break them, and how the
materials can be improved so they can sustain even greater force before
For example, Shukla is conducting ballistic studies for the U.S. Army
on Kevlar body armor to improve the performance of bulletproof vests.
"By evaluating how the material reacts when it is impacted by a
bullet, we may be able to modify the geometric shape of the Kevlar and make
it stronger," said Shukla. He believes that armor made with ridges
on it is stronger than a flat piece of ceramic-backed kevlar. "Without
the camera, we wouldn't be able to determine which shape is best."
He is also working with the U.S. Air Force to analyze how granite and
concrete resist penetration from multiple impacts. According to Shukla,
the Air Force is interested in this information to better understand the
strength of underground bunkers, although the information is also of interest
to the oil and gas exploration industry.
In addition to learning how things break apart, Shukla also uses the
camera in the development of composite materials that are stronger or lighter
weight than those currently in use.
By mixing concrete with cenospheres hollow, ceramic microballoons
that are a byproduct of burning coal the concrete becomes considerably
lighter. If he can develop a way of improving the bond between the concrete
and the cenospheres, the lightweight concrete will be as strong, or stronger,
than regular concrete. This work is being done under the auspices of the
URI Transportation Research Center.
"We use the camera to analyze the fractures that occur between the
materials under high load conditions," explained Shukla. "Once
we understand how the fractures occur, we should be able to develop a better
bond between the concrete and the cenospheres."
Shukla began his studies of fracture mechanics using a camera he built
himself in 1982.
"That first camera, which we still use, takes pictures at 800,000
frames per second, but it was very large and required 30,000 volts of electricity
to operate, so some experiments took several days to complete. With the
new portable camera we can do eight or ten experiments a day, and we can
analyze the results immediately."
Shukla sees unlimited potential for the new camera, and he is open to
inquiries from researchers throughout the region. He suggested that oceanographers
or the Navy may be interested in using the camera to evaluate how torpedoes
damage ships or to evaluate new materials and materials systems for use
in emerging ship designs. He also believes forensic scientists could use
it to analyze how bombs explode.
"The camera can do amazing things," he said. "There are
probably lots of people who could find a use for it."
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For Information: Arun Shukla 874-2283, Todd McLeish 874-7892