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Computational modelling of composite plates and shells using data-driven approach (Advert Reference: RDF22-R/EE/MCE/NGUYEN)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Hoang Nguyen  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Recent report from Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK in July 2021 revealed that the UK composite end-product market in 2019 was estimated at £2.8B and expected to grow to £4.3B by 2035. Composites have found its application in a wide range of industries including aerospace, defence, automotive and wind energy.

Due to its highly desirable material property of lightweight, strong and durable, composite plates and shells are widely used as structural components of aircrafts and wind turbines. Reliable numerical simulations to understand the mechanical behaviours and dynamics of these structures are vital to the utilisation of composite materials. This leads to more efficient designs and better products with minimal waste helping to address sustainability and net-zero challenges.

Numerical modelling of composite plates and shells typically involves using Conservation laws and Material laws to solve the governing boundary-value problems. While the former is universal to all types of materials and physical phenomena, the latter is empirical and uncertain as it is based on various experiment observations. This uncertainty causes modelling errors and contributes to the discrepancy between numerical predictions and real physical behaviours. Traditionally, once the material laws are constructed, all the experimental data will be disregarded causing significant waste of resources and the valuable data is not fully exploited. To tackle this, the data-driven approach performs calculations directly from experiment data while still ensuring the satisfaction of the conservation laws and physical constraints. Additionally, this approach enables uncertainty quantification as the statistical information contained in the data is preserved.

The proposed research aims at developing and implementing an efficient and expandable data-driven framework to model composite plates and shells by utilising material experiment data while maintaining the physical compatibility. The success of this project will result in (i) a novel framework to incorporate real-life data into the numerical modelling circle of composite structures while maintaining physical laws and (ii) broadened knowledge of the newly emerged and promising area of data-driven modelling within the wider field of Computational Mechanics.

This project aligns with one of The Grand Challenges published by the UK Government in January 2021 (Artificial Intelligence and data) which aims to help putting the country at the forefront of the industries of the future.

This project uses MoFEM – a leading open-source research code used by industry partners, e.g. EDF Energy and Jacobs – as the primary finite element library to develop the necessary codes for the analysis of composites. The successful candidate will have unlimited access to the Faculty’s Oswald supercomputer cluster for code deployment and running simulations in parallel. The project also utilises the leading facilities in the laboratory for preliminary experimental testing.

The successful candidate will be supported to make all codes/tools developed from this project open sourced for reproducibility. They can also be used in small and medium-sized enterprises in structural engineering, at no cost, to reduce their reliance on commercial software and to assist with their numerical modelling needs.

The Principal Supervisor for this project is Dr Hoang Nguyen.

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

The successful candidate should have a keen interest in Computational Mechanics. Prior knowledge of finite element method and programming language, e.g. C++, Python, or MATLAB, is desirable.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF22-R/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 20 June 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Funding Notes:

Each studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £16,602 per year) and full tuition fees. Only UK candidates may apply.

Studentships are available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £9,961 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or

• have settled status, or

• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or

• have indefinite leave to remain or enter.


H. Nguyen, J. Lee, T. Vo, D. Lanc, Vibration and lateral buckling optimisation of thin-walled laminated composite channel-section beams, Composite Structures 143, p84-92, 2016.
H. Nguyen, N-I Kim, J. Lee, Optimum design of thin-walled composite beams for flexural–torsional buckling problem, Composite Structures 132, p1065-1074, 2015.
N. Nguyen, H. Nguyen, D-H Phan, H. Nguyen-Xuan, A polygonal finite element method for laminated composite plates, International Journal of Mechanical Sciences, p863-882, 2017.
L. Kaczmarczyk, H. Nguyen, Z. Ullah, M. Wakeni, C. Pearce, Solid shell prism elements based on hierarchical, heterogeneous, and anisotropic shape functions, arXiv:2010.08799, 2020.
L. Kaczmarczyk et al., MoFEM: An open source, parallel finite element library, Journal of Open Source Software 5(45), 1441, 2020.

How good is research at Northumbria University in Engineering?

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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