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European Laboratory for Structural Assessment: Large Hopkinson Bar Facility (ELSA-HopLab)

The HOPLAB facility is used for the study of materials and of structural components to very fast dynamic loads. HOPLAB is the world’s largest Hopkinson Bar, extending for a length of more than 200 meters.


The ELSA HopLab is a specialised laboratory (based on Hopkinson Bar techniques) for the study of the behaviour of materials and structural components to very fast dynamic loads, such as those due to blast and impact, where knowledge of the material behaviour under high strain-rates is necessary. The laboratory has unique features with respect to the magnitude of the applied forces and the large size of the specimens to be tested.

The facility is operated by highly experienced scientific and technical staff and is supported by specialists in numerical simulation (see EUROPLEXUS).

The services offered by ELSA HopLab enable scientists to carry out high-quality research through unique experimental facilities for the characterisation of brittle or ductile materials and components at dynamic strain-rates and at high/low temperatures.

Large Hopkinson Bar for ductile materials

This is the world’s largest Hopkinson Bar extending for a length of more than 200 meters. Thus, large material samples or structural components and sub-assemblies can be accurately tested under the required dynamic conditions. It features:

  • bars of 72 mm diameter made of MSK steel
  • maximum generated pulse: 1 MN force amplitude, 40 ms duration, 15m/s induced impact speed
  • semiconductor strain-gages for increased sensitivity
  • pulse generation using the pre-tensioned bar method and explosive bolt release
  • ideal for tension tests; compression tests performed employing an ‘inversion frame’ developed according to specimen size and shape
  • capability: maximum 4 tests / day

Medium-size Hopkinson Bar for brittle materials

Modified Hopkinson Bar designed for the compressive and tensile characterisation of brittle materials using large size specimens (concrete, glass, mortar, geo-materials etc.). It features:

  • aluminium or steel bars of 100 mm diameter and 2.7 m length
  • maximum generated pulse: 3 MN amplitude and about 0.8 ms duration
  • semiconductor strain-gages for increased sensitivity
  • pulse generation using the impactor bar
  • capability: maximum 8 tests / day

Additional equipment

Smaller Hopkinson Bars of various bar diameters and lengths are also available for the testing of small material specimens under different dynamic loading types:

  • apparatus for compressive testing of soft cellular materials
  • apparatus for compressive testing of high-strength, brittle materials
  • apparatus for tensile/compressive testing of metals
  • capability: maximum 10 tests / day

The ELSA HopLab is equipped with high-speed digital cameras (up to 50000 fps) and it has expertise for installing strain-gages and other sensors.

European and international collaboration

The laboratory has been involved in collaborative European competitive projects (SAFEWAY - Safety improvement of vehicle passengers through innovative on-road bio-mechanics safety features, ANCHR - Anchorages in normal and high performance concretes subjected to medium and high strain rates, LISSAC - Limit strains for severe accident conditions, REVISA - Reactor vessel integrity in severe accidents, etc.) as well as in international ones (DAM-CONCRETE for DHS, USA).

Areas of research

  • security of buildings and protection of public spaces against explosion loads;
  • dual-use (defence/security) applications;
  • material/structural component testing at high loading-rate conditions (blast, impact) and high/low temperatures.

Recent projects

Dynamic properties of electron beam welded specimens. The  project focused on the tensile and compressive mechanical behaviour at high strain-rates of OFE copper and niobium subjected to electron beam welding.
User access report

Characterisation of automated tape composites at high strain rate. The project studied the tensile mechanical behaviour, at high strain-rates, of a series of advanced composite materials with a tape interlaced laminates structure.
User access report

Steel under severe high impact. The research concerned the investigation of the mechanical behaviour of high strength (S690QL) and very high strength (S960QL) steel tested in tension at high strain-rate.
User access report

Dynamic performance of adobe masonry components. The project investigated the compressive strength of two different mixtures of adobe (in oven- and air-dried conditions) at three different strain-rates ranging from static to fast dynamic.
User access report



Sharing EU laboratories – Cracking the 'mud brick' challenge European Laboratory For Structural Assessments Hopkinson Bar facility
European Commission