There is great current interest in how the microscopic structure of a solid material influences its macroscopic response to stress. Conversely, the application of stress can influence microstructure. Microscopic damage may occur, leading ultimately to the formation of large cracks and structural failure. Phase transformations occur in some materials, creating structures at various length scales which evolve with stress.
The challenge, both for mathematics and physical modelling, is to comprehend relationships between models at different length scales. This has led already to a well-developed theory of ``homogenization'' when the scales are widely separated, and has both exploited and stimulated advances in the calculus of variations. When the scales are separated but still comparable, there is a need for a micromechanical rationale for including scale effects in macroscopic models. The phenomena may be unstable, at least at the microscopic level, and, even if stable, may admit multiple equilibria. Study of the kinetics of the processes is a key requirement, making demands both for modelling and for the analysis of partial differential equations. In particular, the (possibly hierarchical) development of large-scale patterns is an open problem.
The main focus of the programme will be on microstructure formation and evolution, as related to phase transformations, damage development and fracture. Each subject has its own group of specialists (in various mixes, mathematicians, physicists, engineers, materials scientists). There are already overlaps, both between subjects and disciplines, and it is intended that the programme will exploit and extend these, to common advantage.