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Bio-inspired morphing solutions for aeroelastic problems

   School of Engineering

About the Project

This project is part of a 4-year Dual PhD degree programme between the National Tsing Hua University (NTHU) in Taiwan and the University of Liverpool in England. As Part of the NTHU-UoL Dual PhD Award students are in the unique position of being able to gain 2 PhD awards at the end of their degree from two internationally recognised world leading Universities. As well as benefiting from a rich cultural experience, Students can draw on large scale national facilities of both countries and create a worldwide network of contacts across 2 continents.


This PhD project will explore morphing designs as redundancy systems for actively controlled aeroelastic structures.


Aircraft fuel efficiency can be improved by unlocking the potential of aeroelasticity in the aeronautical design. However, same levels of safety of the ‘conventional design’ need to be guaranteed at all time. To do so, we propose to use bio-inspired structures that react to off-design changes in the dynamic or unsteady aerodynamics loads by morphing the geometry of the structure or the aerodynamic shape. By doing so, the morphed structure falls back within the design safety boundaries. It is foreseen that such solutions will be passive (ie no actuation required) and will morph their shape thanks to the intelligence embedded in the structural design. 


Two morphing strategies will be explored: 1) the load bearing structure is designed with breaking points that collapse, in a controlled fashion, if the dynamic loads rise above a certain threshold. By doing so, the morphed structure falls back into a stable condition. It is foreseen that for this approach wing-span morphing will be explored, and 2) the aerofoil internal structure features auxetic or origami structures that, if loaded with off-design unsteady aerodynamic loads, passively morph the aerofoil shape. The resulting geometry produces unsteady aerodynamic loads that do not have a destabilizing effect on the aerostructure. The project is both numerical and experimental and the wind tunnel (WT) facilities of the UoL will be extensively used. During the period at NTHU, the student will have access to all the testing facilities at the Advanced Control and Dynamic Test Laboratory, including dSPACE control system and servo mechanical actuators, under Dr Chang’s supervision.

Qualifications of the candidate:

Through UoL: The successful application will have a 2:1 honours degree or above (or equivalent) from either an aerospace or mechanical engineering background that includes basic knowledge of dynamical systems, control techniques, design and programming skills. An interest in both theoretical and experimental systems is preferred.

Through NTHU: The successful application should have obtained NTHU admission into Ph.D. program in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and possess basic knowledge of dynamical systems, control techniques, design and programming skills. Applicant who are interested in theoretical, numerical and experimental work on the dynamic systems are highly encouraged to apply.

Pattern of study

The first part of the project, to be carried out at UoL (minimum duration: 18 months), will be devoted at developing the conceptual morphing strategy, the analytical model for benchmarking the it and design, manufacturing and testing such morphing strategy in the UoL WT. Then, the student will spend a maximum of 24 months at NTHU to develop the second morphing strategy and design and manufacture it. Finally, the student will spend a minimum of 6 months at UoL to perform the final experimental tests and to write the thesis.

For academic enquires please contact Sebastiano Fichera , or Jen-Yuan (James) Chang .

For enquires on the application process or to find out more about the Dual programme please contact School of Engineering Postgraduate Office ()

 To apply please visit: When applying please ensure you Quote the supervisor & project title you wish to apply for and note ‘NTHU-UoL Dual Scholarship’ when asked for details of how plan to finance your studies.

Funding Notes

It is planned that students will spend 18 months at UoL, followed by 2 years at NTHU, with the final 6 months at the University of Liverpool.
Both the University of Liverpool and NTHU have agreed to waive the tuition fees for the duration of the project and stipend of TWD 11,000/month will be provided as a contribution to living costs (the equivalent of £280 per month when in Liverpool). Plus, a contribution of £1,000/month for the time spent at the University of Liverpool.

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