Prospects for Intelligent Simulation

MIT Project on Mathematics and Computation
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The objective of this research is to demonstrate breakthrough applications of computer representations and reasoning mechanisms that enable intelligent systems to autonomously design, monitor, and understand complex physical systems. Our techniques rely on appropriate mixtures of numerical computing, symbolic computing, and knowledge-based methods.

Selected recent accomplishment: Intelligent Structures

One application of intelligent simulation is to the design of dynamically-stabilized structures. Such structures are sensitive and active, incorporating networks of high-performance controllers. They have exceptional strength-to-weight ratios, far larger than could be obtained statically.

For example, one can use active control to counteract buckling in compressively-loaded members, which is one of the most important factors limiting the overall strength and stability of a structure. By sensing deflections while they are still small, it is possible to apply only a small amount of force to counteract the buckling.

The thin beam shown on the left (edge view on the right) is a composite steel column that incorporates strain gauges and piezo-ceramic actuators, which permit it to actively resist buckling. This active column can support more than 5 times the maximum load for a passive structure of the same dimensions and composition. We have used columns like this to demonstrate that a model truss bridge with actively stabilized members can support greater loads than would be possible without active control.

Potential applications for buckling-controlled active members include structures that can support large transient loads, such airplane landing gear and earthquake-resistant bridges and buildings; and counteracting wave-induced metal fatigue in ships.

Look here for general project information.
Hal Abelson (
Gerry Sussman (

Last modified July 23, 1995