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Applications of advanced imaging and simulation methods in failure analysis of composite materials


Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Tuesday, August 31, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Supervisory Team: Ian Sinclair, Mark Spearing, Mark Mavrogordato

Project description

The exploitation of lightweight composite materials represent a vital element in the future efficiency and sustainability of the transportation sector. In common with the early history of fracture and fatigue in metals, the majority of the analytical capability for fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composite design currently consists of empirical fits to large experimental databases to determine “knock-down” factors for structural performance. This has direct negative consequences in realising the potential of composite materials. As part of a long-term collaboration with the international Solvay Group, this project will apply an innovative Data Rich Mechanics approach to the canonical problem of intralaminar toughness in carbon-FRPs by the use of 3-D Computed Tomography (CT) and complementary simulation methods, generating the necessary quantitative materials optimisation and analysis tools for future light-weighting in aerospace and other sectors. The right candidate is expected to have an excellent education within the physical sciences (e.g. Engineering, Physics or Materials Science degree), a grounding in mechanics and composite materials, along with a commitment to an experimentally demanding project (including X-ray imaging at national synchrotron facilities, mechanical testing, 3D data analysis).

High resolution Computed Tomography is a rapidly evolving capability, with increasingly recognised potential to revolutionise non-destructive analysis of composite materials. The project supervisory team are at the forefront of investigating failure mechanisms in composites using CT techniques, specifically addressing micromechanical failure evolution in static, cyclic and impact loaded coupons via laboratory and synchrotron-based facilities. This project will focus on understanding and optimising microstructure to control intralaminar crack paths to promote stable or increasing toughness variation with increasing crack length (the so call ‘R-curve’). In situ X-ray testing will be conducted, with initial high-resolution 3D imaging being carried out using state-of-the-art in-house CT capabilities (Zeiss Versa 510 scanner). This is available through the University’s multi-million investment in the µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre (www.muvis.org), an international Centre of Excellence with active collaborations across Europe, the US and Asia. As the project develops, synchrotron radiation computed tomography (SRCT) will additionally be used, exploiting the research team’s many years of experience at national facilities in the UK and Europe. CT findings will be used in various forms to initialise, calibrate and validate finite element (FE) simulations of intralaminar fracture at a microstructural level. The overarching goal will be to build towards a complete ‘virtual test’ capability, with control over specific variables such as neat resin properties and material interfaces, reducing current reliance on empirical, trial-and-error development.

Entry Requirements
A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent).

Closing date: applications should be received no later than 31 August 2021 for standard admissions, but later applications may be considered depending on the funds remaining in place.

Funding: full tuition fees for EU/UK students plus for UK students, an enhanced stipend of £15,285 tax-free per annum for up to 3.5 years.

How To Apply

Applications should be made online, please select the academic session 2020-21 “PhD Eng & Env (Full time)” as the programme. Please enter Ian Sinclair under the proposed supervisor.

Applications should include:
Curriculum Vitae
Two reference letters
Degree Transcripts to date
Apply online: https://www.southampton.ac.uk/courses/how-to-apply/postgraduate-applications.page

For further information please contact:


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