Fracture Physics and Failure Analysis

Understanding how and why things break is key to preventing breaks from occurring—or, as is needed in rock quarrying or frozen food grinding, to break them more efficiently. To help clients prevent failures and extend the lifetime of aircraft, power plants, gas pipelines, and electronics, failure analysis experts in SRI's Center for Fracture Physics use advanced methods to quantify and analyze fracture surface topography. The Center’s materials scientists, mechanical engineers, computational physicists, and corrosion experts can reconstruct the history of a crack and retroactively determine the conditions that contributed to crack formation.

Every Crack Tells a Story

SRI’s Fracture Surface Topography Analysis (FRASTA) software tool reconstructs failure events in microscopic detail and analyzes materials and structures to determine when cracks nucleated and how fast they grew. FRASTA is available under license for use in failure analysis or materials design, or for training purposes. Clients include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Osaka Gas, and Chubu Electric Power.


An SRI researcher observes FRASTA images on a computer

SRI has developed a breakthrough technology for diagnosing and predicting fatigue failure in pipelines, aircraft, bridges, power plants, and other structures using quantitative 3D fractography.

SRI In the News

This article reports that about 175 people recently attended the May 2011 Cafe Scientifique on the SRI campus to hear Dr. Don Shockey, director of SRI's Center for Fracture Physics, speak about how cracks in materials, some microscopically small, can cause large structures to fail.


To help ensure continued safe-flight of the Space Shuttle Orbiter, SRI sought the cause of a thruster failure. The work shows how a failure event can be replayed through fracture surface topography analysis. This article won the Best Paper Award for the Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention.