George W. Pearsall

Image of George W. Pearsall

Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science

Professor Pearsall also holds an appointment as Professor of Public Policy Studies.

Professor Pearsall's research interests are focused on failure analysis and its relationship to product safety and to design. One active research project involves an investigation of the fracture characteristics of polycarbonate and other engineering plastics: fracture morphology, fracture toughness specifications and interpretations, and characterizations of molecular structure. His research techniques include optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy, and scanning tunneling electron microscopy to characterize and record the various ways in which the fracture surfaces of polycarbonate and other plastics exhibit fine-scale banding (superficially resembling fatigue striations) when the fracture is brittle and the stress has no cyclic components. These bands occur in a variety of different microscopic forms and exhibit morphological details that are major subjects of this research. They provide extremely reliable indicators of the crack's direction and state of stress when the bands were formed, and the research of Professor Pearsall and his graduate students indicates that these bands originate as crazes ahead of the main crack. However, many of the details of their resulting morphologies are still not understood in fundamental terms.

A second area of Professor Pearsall's research is the development of a methodology for assuring that designed products are safe. This research contains engineering, public policy, and ethical components. At the present time, the emphasis is on risk analysis (including severity quantification), on benefit analysis, and on investigating the ways in which engineers and managers make probabilistic decisions that involve risks and benefits.

Appointments and Affiliations
  • Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science
Contact Information:
  • Office Location: 187 Engineering Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
  • Office Phone: (919) 660-5344
  • Email Address:

  • Sc.D. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1961
  • B.S.M.E. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 1955


Polymer and Protein Engineering
Failure Analysis

Courses Taught:

    Representative Publications: (More Publications)
      • AGRAWAL, C; HUNTER, K; PEARSALL, G; HENKENS, R, APPLICATION OF SCANNING TUNNELING MICROSCOPY TO THE STUDY OF FRACTURE MORPHOLOGY OF POLYCARBONATE, Journal of Materials Science, vol 27 no. 10 (1992), pp. 2606-2612 [10.1007/BF00540676] [abs].
      • GROVES, J; AGRAWAL, C; PEARSALL, G, STUDY OF THE FRACTURE-TOUGHNESS AND FRACTURE MORPHOLOGY OF POLYBENZIMIDAZOLE, Journal of Materials Science, vol 27 no. 9 (1992), pp. 2335-2339 [10.1007/BF01105040] [abs].
      • AGRAWAL, C; PEARSALL, G, THE FRACTURE MORPHOLOGY OF FAST UNSTABLE FRACTURE IN POLYCARBONATE, Journal of Materials Science, vol 26 no. 7 (1991), pp. 1919-1930 [10.1007/BF00543624] [abs].
      • HILL, A; JONES, P; LIND, J; PEARSALL, G, A POSITRON-ANNIHILATION LIFETIME STUDY OF ISOTHERMAL STRUCTURAL RELAXATION IN BISPHENOL-A POLYCARBONATE, Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry, vol 26 no. 6 (1988), pp. 1541-1552 [10.1002/pola.1988.080260605] [abs].
      • CHENG, K; PEARSALL, G; CHADDOCK, J, ENHANCEMENT OF THE STEEL QUENCHING PROCESS BY AN ELECTRIC-FIELD, Journal of Materials Science, vol 22 no. 1 (1987), pp. 103-108 [10.1007/BF01160557] [abs].