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The University of Southampton

SESG6045 Experimental Mechanics

Module Overview

‘Experimental mechanics’ can be defined as the investigation by experimental means of the mechanical behaviour of engineering systems subjected to load. The system can be a structure, a material, soft matter such as human tissue, a fluid-structure coupling; the list is practically endless. Implicit in the definition is that some kind of measurement system is used to capture a quantity that describes the system’s behaviour. The main attributes conventionally associated with experimental mechanics are the deformation and the mechanical strain. These can then be related to a failure parameter by deriving the stresses from the strains by knowing the material constitutive relationships. Experimental mechanics approaches that provide a measure related to the strain are therefore very important design tools. Many of these techniques have been available for decades but recently have been gaining popularity because of the advances in computing power and decreasing hardware costs. More importantly from the design perspective, the necessity for experimental data to validate numerical models of systems manufactured from complex nonlinear inhomogeneous materials, such as fibre reinforced polymer composites, is ever increasing. Experimental mechanics approaches have much to offer and it is the purpose of this module to provide an overview of the range of application and operation of the techniques.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- To provide an in-depth understanding of experimental mechanics approaches. - To introduce students to testing procedures. - To provide detailed knowledge of the application of point measurement techniques such as electrical resistance strain gauges and optical fibre sensors. - To provide a detailed knowledge of modern full field techniques such as Thermoelastic Stress Analysis (TSA), Digital Image Correlation (DIC), Electronic Speckle Pattern Interferometry (ESPI). - Understand how the data from experimental techniques are manipulated to validate numerical models.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Testing procedures.
  • Understand the physics of point measurement techniques.
  • Understand the physics Full-field techniques.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Incorporate experimental approaches at the design stage.
  • Devise an experimental methodology for understanding material and structural performance.
  • Apply the data from the experimental work to validate and FE model. Understand the application ranges experimental mechanics approaches and their advantages and limitations.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • To apply theory to solve practical problems.
  • Apply a selection procedure.
  • Optimise a problem.
  • Report writing.
  • Manipulate data using a package such as MATLAB.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand the operating principles of test machines.
  • Apply electrical resistance strain gauges.
  • Use full-field techniques


Lecture 1 : Principles of test machines and test methodologies Lecture 2 : Strain gauges Lecture 3 : White light imaging Lecture 4 : Digital image correlation Lecture 5 : Grid techniques Lecture 6 : Data analysis and processing Lecture 7 : Virtual fields method Lecture 8 : Infra-red imaging Lecture 9 : Thermoelastic stress analysis Lecture 10: Pulsed and pulse phase thermography Lecture 11: ESPI Lecture 12: Photoelasticity Lecture 13: Industrial showcase

Special Features

Additional assessment based on knowledge and understanding gained from laboratory classes.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - lectures. - laboratory classes. - Practical sessions in computer room. - Learning activities include. - Laboratory assignments and analysis.

Preparation for scheduled sessions34
Supervised time in studio/workshop7
Follow-up work20
Completion of assessment task50
Practical classes and workshops5
Wider reading or practice10
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Pramod K. Rastogi (Editor), Erwin Hack(Editor) (2012). Optical Methods for Solid Mechanics: A Full-Field Approach. 


Assessment Strategy

Referral - normally the referral for this module consists of resubmission of the courseworks on laboratory work.


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisite - Mechanical Engineering degree or equivalent

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