MUSAM - Multi-scale Analysis of Materials


MUSAM is an interdisciplinary research unit integrating computational and experimental mechanics, numerical analysis and materials science to address frontier research related to modelling, simulation and testing of natural and artificial physical systems. Topics of investigation regard fracture mechanics, contact mechanics, fluid dynamics, coupled problems, structural integrity and durability of heterogeneous materials and structures, 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 and materials science


  • Prof. Dr. Ing. Marco Paggi (Director), Full Professor
  • Dr. Ing. Andrea Mola, Tenure-Track Assistant Professor
  • Dr. Pietro Lenarda, Assistant Professor
  • Dr. Ing. Maria Rosaria Marulli, Post-doctoral fellow, 01/06/2021-
  • Dr. Ing. Jacopo Bonari, Post-doctoral fellow, 01/06/2021-14/06/2023
  • Dr. Ing. Hamed Zarei Mahmoodabadi, Post-doctoral fellow, 01/07/2022-30/06/2024
  • Ing. Alice Bertolini, PhD student (cycle XXXVIII, scholarship co-funded by Lucart SpA)
  • Ing. Luca Cattarossi, PhD student (cycle XXXVIII, scholarship co-funded by ToolsPole SrL)
  • Ing. René Thierry Djoumessi, PhD student (cycle XXXVIII)
  • Ing. Mohadeseh Fallah Yakhdani, PhD student (cycle XXXVIII)
  • Mr. Mazhar Shehzad, PhD student (cycle XXXVIII)
  • Ing. Zeng Liu, PhD student (cycle XXXVI, Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher)
  • Ing. Ajinkya Dusane, PhD student (cycle XXXVI)
  • Ing. Karthik Ambikakumari Sanalkumar, PhD student (cycle XXXVI, Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher at University of Seville, double degree with IMT)
  • Ing. Rakesh Kumar Tota , PhD student (cycle XXXV)
  • Ing. Angel de Jesus Valverde Gonzalez, PhD student (cycle XXXV)
  • Ing. Francis John, PhD student (cycle XXXIV)
  • Ing. Simone Sommovigo, Research collaborator, 01/03/2023-28/02/2024

Former staff & placement: visiting professors and researchers, alumni and former collaborators.

Four enrolled PhD students describe their research activities and experience in short storytelling videos, see here.

Research Topics

Computational contact mechanics of rough surfaces
Development of innovative HPC algorithms (BEM, FEM, multi-scale BEM-FEM models) for contact problems involving surface roughness and texture, friction, adhesion, wear, thermo-elasticity. Topological characterization of natural and artificial rough surfaces with experimental techniques.
Contact mechanics of rough surfaces
Numerical simulation of contact problems

Development of cohesive fracture mechanics models in statics and dynamics
Data-driven cohesive zone models for micro-structured interfaces and adhesives of finite thickness, with applications to paper tissue and fibrillar bio-inspired adhesives. Interface finite elements for finite elasticity; simulation of fracture and instabilities in multi-layered materials and in flexible electronics.

In-situ testing of paper fracture (left). Simulated fracture patterns in flexible electronics (right).

Phase-field modelling of fracture
Development of phase-field models for fracture for visco-elastic, hyper-elastic, anisotropic polycrystalline materials and laminates, in statics and dynamics.

Phase-field modelling of fracture in hyper-elastic shells

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

Experimental techniques for the assessment of material degradation in photovoltaics
Development of image analysis techniques for the analysis and interpretation of electroluminescence and infrared images of photovoltaic modules, to assess Silicon fracture and other material degradation phenomena.

Electroluminescence image of photovoltaic modules showing Silicon cracks

Sustainability of photovoltaics
Simulation methods for multi-field and multi-scale fracture problems in Silicon photovoltaics; fractional-calculus modelling of thermo-visco-elasticity of polymeric materials; prediction of moisture and temperature diffusion in the polymeric encapsulant; design of production techniques for ultra-thin solar cells based on thermo-elastic spalling of Silicon; simulation of the effect of climatic zones on photovoltaics durability; design of optimal methods for PV recycling.
Thermo-elastic moisture-induced degradation in photovoltaics
Thermo-elastic moisture-induced degradation in photovoltaics: experiments and simulation

Numerical methods for the resolution and model order reduction of fluid dynamic problems
Potential flow simulation for free surface flows with nonlinear boundary conditions; boundary element method solvers for ship hydrodynamics; fluid-structure interaction models; Navier-Stokes simulations for vortex induced vibrations in structures exposed to winds and streams; reduction of computational cost via intrusive and non intrusive reduced order models.

Computational fluid dynamics simulations for naval engineering applications

Smoothed particle hydrodynamics and lattice Boltzmann methods
Simulation of fluid lubrication with complex rough boundaries using SPH; simulation of blood particle flows using lattice Boltzmann.

Simulation of hydrodynamic lubrication and flow of particles immersed in blood

Modelling and simulation of reaction-diffusion systems in solids and fluids
Degradation of mechanical adhesion and optical properties of polymers; bacterial bioconvection (advection-reaction-diffusion system) in viscous fluids; electro-physiological modelling of cardiac cells and biological tissues in finite elasticity.
Bacterial bioconvection in viscous fluids: experiments and simulation
Bacterial bioconvection in viscous fluids: experiments and simulation

Computational micromechanics and homogenization theory
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


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 regards the publication of scientific results in top journals of physics, engineering and materials science. Most of them are co-authored by PhD students and are stemming from international cooperations. 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 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 (2014-2022, source: SCOPUS)

  • No. ISI publications: 13 (2014), 14 (2015), 25 (2016), 25 (2017), 22 (2018), 21 (2019), 20 (2020), 12 (2021), 21 (2022)
  • Percentage of articles co-authored by PhD students: 38% (2014), 36% (2015), 32% (2016), 24% (2017), 14% (2018), 29% (2019), 45% (2020), 42% (2021), 59% (2022)
  • Percentage of articles stemming from international cooperations: 38% (2014), 29% (2015), 40% (2016), 48% (2017), 45% (2018), 33% (2019), 65% (2020), 58% (2021), 88% (2022)
  • External funding attracted: more than 3 MEuro

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


MUSAM-Lab - experimental laboratory for materials testing, see more on its web-site

Opportunities for industrial collaborations (in Italian):
Leaflet of the MUSAM-Lab
The laboratory is currently involved in technology transfer projects with national and international companies. Please contact Prof. Marco Paggi (, Director of the lab, for R&D contracts.

Projects and funding


  • 2023-2027 - Research unit, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Staff Exchanges (HORIZON-MSCA-2021-SE-01) "Ductility and Fracture Toughness analysis of functionally graded materials - DIAGONAL", granted by the European Research Executive Agency (GA 101086342), 184,000 Euro, 48 months.
  • 2022-2023 - Coordinator, "Scientific computing for natural sciences, social sciences, and applications: methodological and technological development", funded by MUR, PRO3 joint programme of the Italian Schools for Advanced Studies, 595,800 Euro, 24 months.
  • 2022-2024 - Coordinator, NEXTPAPER4.0 "Next Generation Paper and Packaging", Fondo per lo Sviluppo e la Coesione della Regione Toscana, 60.000 Euro, 24 months, in cooperazione con Lucense scarl.
  • 2020-2024 - Research unit, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (H2020 MSCA-ITN) "New strategies for multifield fracture problems across scales in heterogeneous systems for Energy, Health and Transport - NEWFRAC", granted by the European Research Executive Agency (GA 861061), 3,359,824.20 Euro, 48 months.
  • 2019-2023 - Research unit, Research Project of National Interest (PRIN 2017) "XFAST-SIMS: Extra fast and accurate simulation of complex structural systems", granted by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (GA 20173C478N), 877,560 Euro, 36 months.


  • 2018-2020 – Research unit, 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 – Coordinator, 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 (LU), Italia), 54,000 Euro, 24 months.
  • 2016-2018 – Coordinator, ERC Proof of Concept 2016 "PHotovoltaic with SuperIor Crack resistance", granted by the European Research Council (149,500 Euro, 18 months).
  • 2012-2017 – Coordinator, 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 – Coordinator, 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 – Coordinator, 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). Since 2013, MUSAM has activated technology transfer projects abd collaborations with the following industrial partners:
Selected publications co-authored by industrial partners:
  • H. Zarei, M.R. Marulli, M. Paggi, R. Pietrogrande, C. Üffing, P. Weißgraeber (2020) Adherend surface roughness effect on the mechanical response of silicone-based adhesive joints, Engineering Fracture Mechanics, 240, 107353.
  • H. Zarei, M.R. Marulli, M. Paggi, R. Pietrogrande, C. Üffing, P. Weißgraeber (2020) Mechanical characterization and failure modes in the peeling of adhesively bonded strips from a plastic substrate, Mechanics of Advanced Materials and Structures, 1-6.
  • 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


Prof. Marco Paggi and Dr. Francesco Biancalani founded the 4th of April 2019 the innovative start-up and academic spin-off TREE-TOWER S.R.L., focusing on high-tech digital solutions for smart manufacturing. A video presentation of the company, located in the incubator of Polo Tecnologico Lucchese, is available here.


Advanced courses and summer schools

Conferences and workshops

  • Expanding Horizons, Workshop of the NewFrac Marie Curie ITN Project, IMT Lucca, 9-12 May 2022, IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca.
  • 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.