MUSAM - Multi-scale Analysis of Materials


MUSAM is an interdisciplinary research unit integrating computational and experimental mechanics, numerical analysis, materials science and applied chemistry to address frontier research related to modelling, simulation and testing of natural and artificial physical systems. Topics of investigation regard deformation, fracture, contact, structural integrity and durability of heterogeneous materials and composite structures, innovative coatings, sensors, renewable energy systems and devices

The research unit addresses frontier research topics of high technological relevance, pursuing an interdisciplinary approach which integrates computational and experimental mechanics, numerical analysis, materials science and applied chemistry


  • Prof. Dr. Ing. Marco Paggi (Director)
  • Dr. Ing. Andrea Bacigalupo, Assistant Professor
  • Dr. Claudia Borri, Post-doc
  • Dr. Ing. Mariacristina Gagliardi, Post-doc
  • Dr. Francesco Biancalani, Post-doc
  • Ing. Vigneswaran Govindarajan, PhD student, cycle XXX
  • Ms. Rosaria Del Toro, PhD student, cycle XXXI
  • Ing. Nicola Dardano, PhD student, cycle XXXII
  • Ing. Teresa Guillen Hernandez, PhD student, cycle XXXII
  • Ing. Jacopo Bonari, PhD student, cycle XXXIII
  • Ing. Maria Rosaria Marulli, PhD student, cycle XXXIII
Visiting professors
  • Prof. Dr. Ing. Davide Bigoni, Visiting Professor in 2015-2017, Full Professor at the University of Trento (Trento, Italy)
  • Dr. Ing. Mauro Corrado, Visiting Professor in 2014, 2017 Assistant Professor at Politecnico di Torino and Marie Curie Fellow at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Lausanne, Switzerland)
  • Dr. Ing. Alessio Gizzi, Visiting Professor in 2015-2017, Assistant Professor at the Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma (Roma, Italy)
  • Dr. Ing. José Reinoso, Visiting Professor in 2014-2017, Assistant Professor at the University of Seville (Seville, Spain)
  • Dr.-Ing. Pattabhi R. Budarapu, Visiting Professor in 2017, Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (Bhubaneswar, India)
  • Prof. Dr.-Ing. Alexander Popp, Visiting Professor in 2017, Full Professor at Bundeswehr University Munich (Munich, Germany)
  • Dr. Ing. Antonis Vakis, Visiting Professor in 2017, Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen (Groningen, The Netherlands)
  • Dr. Ing. Dario Piga, Visiting Professor in 2017, Assistant Professor at Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera italiana (SUPSI) (Lugano, Switzerland)
Visiting PhD students
  • Ing. Adria Quintanas Corominas, University of Girona, Spain, 2018
  • Ing. Navid Valizadeh, University of Weimar, Germany, 2017
Alumni and former collaborators
  • Dr.-Ing. Pattabhi R. Budarapu, Post-doc from 02/03/2015 to 28/02/2017, afterwards Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (Bhubaneswar, India)
  • Dr. Ing. Francesca Fantoni, Post-doc from 01/03/2016 to 28/02/2017, afterwards Post-doc at the University of Brescia (Brescia, Italy)
  • Dr. Lorenzo Morini, Post-doc, Post-doc from 18/01/2016 to 17/12/2016, afterwards Marie Curie researcher at Cardiff University (Cardiff, UK)
  • Dr. Pietro Lenarda, PhD student (cycle XXIX), afterwards Post-doc at the Italian Institute of Technology (Genova, Italy)
  • Dr. Ing. Paolo Cinat, PhD student (cycle XXX), afterwards Post-doc at the Italian National Research Council (Florence, Italy)
  • Dr. Ing. Valerio Carollo, PhD student (cycle XXX), afterwards Post-doc at the University of Trento (Trento, Italy)
  • Dr. Ing. Irene Berardone, Post-doc from 01/03/2016 to 30/11/2017, afterwards Post-doc at the University of Bologna (Bologna, Italy)
  • Dr. Ing. Saheed Olalekan Ojo, Post-doc from 15/03/2016 to 30/11/2017, afterwards Post-doc at the University of Limerick (Limerick, Ireland)
From left to right: Cinat, Carollo, Lenarda, Ojo, Bacigalupo, Paggi, Fantoni, Berardone, Borri, Gagliardi, Del Toro.

Research Topics

Computational contact mechanics of rough surfaces
Development of mciro-mechanical contact models; proposal of efficient contact solvers for the boundary element method and the finite element method for contact problems with roughness; multi-scale methods for contact mechanics in the presence of adhesion, friction and wear; thermo-elastic contact problems between rough interfaces; topological characterization of natural and artificial rough surfaces.
Contact mechanics of rough surfaces
Numerical simulation of contact problems

Development of cohesive fracture mechanics models in statics and dynamics
Generalization of the cohesive zone model to micro-structured interfaces of finite thickness, with applications to paper tissue and fibrillar adhesives; development of generalized interface finite elements for fracture mechanics in finite elasticity; novel discretization techniques for interfaces; study and simulation of fracture and instabilities in multi-layered materials and in flexible electronics.
Cohesive crack model of fibrillar interfaces
Modelling of fracture in paper: SEM image of crack bridging by cellulose fibers

Phase-field modelling of fracture
Development of phase-field models for fracture for anisotropic polycrystalline materials; implementation of the phase-field model of fracture in solid-shell finite elements; proposal of coupled formulations for cohesive interface and phase-field bulk fracture, simulation of complex crack patterns in composites.
Cohesive crack model for fibrillar interfaces
Complex crack pattern in laminates: experiments and simulation

Multi-scale computational fracture models
Molecular dynamics simulation of fracture in silicon and graphene; coupling of molecular dynamics and finite elements for fracture; proposal of global-local approaches for fracture in composites; model order reduction techniques.
Simulation of crack propagation in graphene-coated silicon

Non-destructive experimental assessment of fracture in photovoltaic modules
Development of image analysis techniques for the analysis and interpretation of electroluminescence and infra-red images of photovoltaic modules, to assess silicon fracture and other material degradation phenomena.
Multi-scale and multi-physics computational models
Electroluminescence image of photovoltaic modules showing silicon cracks

Frontier research on durability and reliability of materials for photovoltaics
Modelling and simulation methods for multi-field and multi-scale characterization of silicon fracture in laminated photovoltaic modules; fractional-calculus modelling of thermo-visco-elasticity of epoxy-vynil-acetate; computational methdos for the prediction of moisture and temperature diffusion in polymeric encapsulant layers; proposal of production techniques for ultra-thin solar cells based on thermo-elastic spalling of silicon; study of the effect of different climate zones on photovoltaic durability; proposal of revision of international standards for photovoltaic material qualification.
Thermo-elastic moisture-induced degradation in photovoltaics
Thermo-elastic moisture-induced degradation in photovoltaics: experiments and simulation

Modelling and simulation of reaction-diffusion systems in mechanics
Numerical analysis of reaction-diffusion systems in solid and fluid mechanics, mathematically described by coupled nonlinear partial differential equations and ordinary differential equations: development of efficient time stepping schemes; degradation of mechanical adhesion and optical properties of polymers; bacterial bioconvection (advection-reaction-diffusion system) in viscous fluids; electro-physiological interaction of biological cells in finite elasticity.
Bacterial bioconvection in viscous fluids: experiments and simulation
Bacterial bioconvection in viscous fluids: experiments and simulation

Computational micromechanics and homogenization theory
Proposal of computational methods for the identification of high-order continua equivalent to Cauchy heterogenous composites; homogenization of piezo-electric materials with thermo-electro-mechanical coupling.
Composite materials
Modelling of debonding between fibre and matrix in fibre-reinforced metal matrix composites

Short crack effects in fatigue
Dimensional analysis derivation of generalized fatigue crack growth laws for the description of the anomalous behaviour of short cracks.

Singularities in heterogeneous materials and structures
Theoretical analysis of singularities in thermo-elasticity and in electro-magnetism, physico-mathematical analogies and applications to metamaterials and heterogenous materials; characterization of reliability and durability of bonded joints.


Due to the progress in materials science, innovative micro- and nano-structures can be manufactured in order to produce materials with superior mechanical, thermal and electric properties. However, their design and optimization is often left to empirical criteria, rather than being theoretically based. The mission of the research unit MUSAM is to make a breakthrough in this multidisciplinary research area by developing new multi-scale and multi-physics computational methods and non-conventional nondestructive experimental techniques for physical systems. The key resource of this activity is the interaction with national and international companies, which greatly contributes to the identification of competitive design and of industrial solutions, as well as the close collaboration with a network of leading international research institutes and universities.


The research output regard the publication of scientific results in the top journals of physics, engineering and materials science, as well as in the proceedings of the most important international peer-reviewed thematic conferences. The research unit aims at having a strong scientific impact, which can be quantified by the number of citations obtained by the papers published and by the number of invited seminars delivered at international institutes by the members of the research unit. Another important output concerns the formation of Ph.D. candidates capable of exporting the scientific skills acquired at IMT not only in other academic groups, but also (and especially) into the industry, which represents the best way to disseminate the methodologies developed in the research unit to industrial practice.

MUSAM Lab included in Cartaditalia n.3 dedicated to "New frontiers of Italian scientific research": Cartaditalia

Key figures (since 2014):

  • Number of articles in international journals: 70
  • Number of articles in international journals co-authored by PhD students: 16
  • Number of articles in international journals co-authored by post-docs: 14
  • Number of articles in international journals co-authored by visiting professors: 14
  • Number of articles stemming from international cooperations: 25
  • External funding attracted (since 2010): 2.029.480 Euro

Follow MUSAM updates on its facebook fanpage, since 2016: MUSAM on facebook
Annual Report 2015
Annual Report 2014

Research facilities

MUSAM-Lab - experimental laboratory for materials testing, see also the dedicated web-site

Opportunities for industrial collaborations (in Italian):
Brochure MUSAM-Lab
Please contact Dr. Claudia Borri (, responsible for the experimental activities.

Projects and funding


  • 2018-2020 – Research unit in the POR FESR 2014/2020, action 1.1.5 sub-action a1 - Call 1, Strategic Projects of Research and Development "GlycoG-Lab 4.0", 2.500.575 Euro, 24 months.
  • 2018-2020 – MIUR-DAAD Joint Mobility Program 2017 "Multi-scale modeling of friction for large scale engineering problems". The project, in collaboration with Prof. Dr.-Ing. A. Popp (Bundeswehr Universität Munich) is granted by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR), and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), 40.000 Euro, 24 months.
  • 2018-2020 – Project POR FSE 2014-2020 "PROPAINT" to support 1 post-doctoral research fellowship, co-funded by Tuscany Region and by the company CROMOLOGY ITALIA spa (Porcari, Lucca, Italia), 54.000 Euro, 24 months.
  • 2016-2018 – ERC Proof of Concept 2016 "PHotovoltaic with SuperIor Crack resistance", granted by the European Research Council (149.500 Euro), Principal Investigator: Prof. M. Paggi.


  • 2016-2017 – Maria Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Pillar Excellence Science H2020 "Brilliant Researchers Impact on Growth Health and Trust in research" (BRIGHT), granted by the European Commission nell’ambito della Call European Researchers' Night, Coordination and Support Action 2016-2017 (Project ID 722944, 160.000 Euro), Partners: University of Siena (Coordinator), IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca (local coordinator: Prof. M. Paggi), Università degli Studi di Firenze, Scuola Normale Superiore, Università di Pisa, Università per Stranieri di Siena, Scuola Superiore di Studi Universitari ed di Perfezionamento Sant’Anna.
  • 2012-2017 – ERC Starting Grant 2012 "Multi-scale and multi-physics computational approach to design and durability of photovoltaic modules", granted by the European Research Council, 1.483.980 Euro, 60 months).
  • 2013-2016 – FIRB 2010 Future in Research Project "Structural mechanics models for renewable energy applications", granted by Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research MIUR, 954.800 Euro, 48 months.
  • 2011-2012 – Vigoni Project 2010 "3D modelling of crack propagation in polycrystalline materials". The project, in collaboration with Prof. P. Wriggers, Leibniz University Hannover, Hannover, Germany, is granted by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR), Ateneo Italo-Tedesco, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), 15,000 Euro, 24 months.


External academic collaborations
The research unit collaborates with several research centers, universities, and institutions around the world and in Italy, including:

Industrial collaborations
MUSAM is promoting technology transfer in cooperation with the Joint Technology Transfer Office (JoTTO) and with industrial collaborations in Tuscany, Italy and USA:
Selected publications co-authored by industrial partners:
  • M. Paggi, I. Berardone, M. Martire (2016) An electric model of cracked solar cells accounting for distributed damage caused by crack interaction, Energy Procedia, 92C:576-584 doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2016.07.022
  • V. Gade, N. Shiradkar, M. Paggi, J. Opalewski (2015) Predicting the long term power loss from cell cracks in PV modules, IEEE 42nd Photovoltaic Specialist Conference (PVSC), June 14-19, 2015, New Orleans, USA, (p. 1-6), doi:10.1109/PVSC.2015.7355665


Advanced courses and summer schools

  • GIMC-GMA 2016 Joint Conference of the Italian Group of Computational Mechanics and of the AIMETA Group on Materials, 27-29 June, 2016, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca.
  • EUROMECH Colloquium 575 Contact Mechanics and Coupled Problems in Surface Phenomena, March 30-April 2, 2015, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca.
  • Seminar on metallic and ceramic materials with applications to paper industry, in cooperation with ASM International and Confindustria Toscana Nord, 26 May, 2016, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca.