Design methods for composite laminates in electric aircraft

   Department of Mechanical Engineering

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  Prof Richard Butler, Dr Andrew Rhead, Dr Chanel Fallon  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

 The University of Bath is inviting applications for the following PhD project commencing in August 2022 or earlier.

Funding is available to candidates who qualify for ‘Home’ fee status. Following the UK’s departure from the European Union, the rules governing fee status have changed and, therefore, candidates from the EU/EEA are advised to check their eligibility before applying. Please see the Funding Eligibility section below for more information.

Project team: Prof Richard Butler, Dr Andrew T Rhead & Dr Chanel Fallon


The Aerospace industry is entering an exciting period of development of airframe concepts to meet our Future Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and Short-Range Electric Vehicle (SREV) needs. This rapidly accelerating market puts significant pressure to design and build aircraft at rates more akin to the high-end automotive sector. Current propulsion systems for this UAM and SREV market are battery derived and this drives a key performance requirement of weight reduction into the airframe and as such material solutions for future aircraft structures will be comprised predominantly of laminates made from carbon fibre reinforced plastic materials; an approach to manufacturing that allows for a vast range of potential designs. However, composite parts are susceptible to manufacturing defects and other strength reducing events such as impact. As such there is an urgent need to create mathematical models that can rapidly identify high strength, low defect designs from the huge numbers of potential designs.

In recent work, we have shown the advantages of using a novel compatibility index to reduce the occurrence of defects in industrial scale composite components made with a forming process – a critical issue in high-rate manufacture and in-service performance of such parts. Equally, the team continues to develop models for other factors affecting part performance such as impact resistance, damage tolerance, buckling resistance and mechanically fastened strength. However, optimal designs for manufacturing are not necessarily optimal, for instance, for damage tolerance. As such the next step is to link the different models to identify designs that balance requirements for manufacturing and strength.

This PhD will seek to develop a new framework for combining the team’s mathematical/numerical models to identify defect free composite components where performance constraints are also considered. This will likely involve new models/further development of existing models. The results of the framework will be validated against experimental tests across a range of loading regimes and strain rates on large composite structures in the team’s brand new test system – training will be provided together with training on the team’s digital image correlation systems. The project will also involve collaboration with academic and industrial partners within the EPSRC projects CerTest ( and NCForm

Applicant requirements:

Applicants should hold, or expect to receive, an undergraduate Masters first class degree or MSc distinction (or non-UK equivalent).

Experience of composite mechanics, Finite element simulation and/or Matlab/Python coding experience would be very beneficial. However, it

is not necessarily essential and we encourage applications from engineering, mathematics and physics backgrounds.

Enquiries and Applications:

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to members of the project team.

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Mechanical Engineering (full-time).

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website

Expected start date: August 2022 or earlier.

Funding Eligibility:

In order to be considered for a studentship, you must qualify as a ‘Home’ student. In determining ‘Home’ student status, we follow the UK government’s fee regulations and guidance which, when available, will be set out by the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) on their website. At the time of advertising this project, the fee regulations for 2021/22 have not yet been published, but we expect (subject to confirmation) that the main categories of students generally eligible for ‘Home’ fee status will be:

  • UK nationals (who have lived in the UK, EU, EEA or Switzerland continuously since September 2018)
  • Irish nationals (who have lived in the UK or Ireland continuously since September 2018)
  • EU/EEA applicants with settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme (who have lived in the UK continuously since September 2018)
  • EU/EEA applicants with pre-settled status in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme (who have lived in the UK, EU, EEA, Switzerland or Gibraltar continuously since September 2018)
  • Applicants with indefinite leave to enter/remain in the UK (who have been resident in the UK continuously since September 2018)

EU/EEA citizens who live outside the UK are unlikely to be eligible for ‘Home’ fees and funding.

Additional information may be found on our fee status guidance webpage, on the GOV.UK website and on the UKCISA website


Zero emission flight, damage tolerant composites, structural performance, high rate manufacturing, aerospace engineering, civil engineering, manufacturing engineering

Engineering (12)

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project will be considered for a 3-year University of Bath Studentship which will cover tuition fees at the ‘Home’ rate, a training support fee of £1,000 per annum and a tax-free maintenance allowance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£15,609 for 2020/21). In order to be eligible for funding, applicants must qualify as a ‘Home’ student - see Funding Eligibility section above.

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