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Computational Technology Reviews
ISSN 2044-8430
Computational Technology Reviews
Volume 9, 2014
Structural Mechanics Models for Molecules and Macromolecules
M. Lombardo1, A. Palmeri1 and S. Ronca2

1The School of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University, United Kingdom
2Department of Materials, Loughborough University, United Kingdom

Full Bibliographic Reference for this paper
M. Lombardo, A. Palmeri, S. Ronca, "Structural Mechanics Models for Molecules and Macromolecules", Computational Technology Reviews, vol. 9, pp. 89-115, 2014. doi:10.4203/ctr.9.4
Keywords: carbon nanotubes, deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA, finite element method, graphene, molecular dynamics, molecular mechanics, nano-structures, structural modelling, ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene..

Masses and springs, beams and shells, cables and membranes are typical elements used to build the computational model of engineering structures, whose overall size often exceeds hundreds of meters. Combining equilibrium, constitutive, and compatibility equations, exact or approximate solutions can be obtained for a variety of structural problems. In particular, continuous advances in the finite element method and information technology (IT) have provided today's engineers with the possibility of running accurate simulations of complex structures subjected to extreme loading scenarios. In parallel with such progress, structural mechanics methods have found in recent years new and exciting applications on a completely different scale. That is, replacing meters with ångströms, kilograms with gram-per-mole, steel beams with chemical bonds, the behaviour of molecules and macromolecules has been investigated using tools and concepts directly drawn from the elastic analysis of structures. Partnering with modern techniques of synthesis and manipulation of inorganic and biological nano-systems, structural mechanics models also have been used to test different configurations before any laboratory experiment is performed, opening the way to novel and sensational developments. Focussing on two main applications (UHMWPE and DNA), the paper aims to review the current state-of-art in the field and discusses how different molecular systems can be represented and studied using structural mechanics methods.

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