Design of lightweight composite stiffened shell structures using topology optimisation

   School of Engineering

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  Dr P Dunning, Prof Alireza Maheri  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The aim of this project is to create new topology optimisation methods for the design of composite lightweight stiffened shell structures.

Stiffened shell structures are used in many industries to provide lightweight solutions in mass critical designs,

such as aircraft wings and fuselage, wind turbines, bridge decks and ship hulls. However, they are complex to design, as their structural performance is dependent on many interconnected variables, such as stiffener layout, number, thickness, and type. Further complexity is introduced when using composite materials, like carbon fibre reinforced polymer.

Topology optimisation is a powerful design approach where the size, shape and layout of a structure are optimised simultaneously, leading to highly efficient novel designs. This approach has been applied to optimise stiffened shell structures before. However, existing methods are often limited by their design freedom and do not fully exploit the potential of topology optimisation (e.g. by fixing stiffener shape and position, fixing shell thickness, or using isotropic materials). Other methods rely on complex heuristic procedures that limit their use beyond simple design criteria and linear modelling. Thus, this project will aim to develop methods that can overcome the limitations of existing techniques, and improve the design of composite stiffened shell structures.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. The successful candidate should have, or expect to obtain, a UK Honours degree at 2.1 or above (or equivalent) in Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Aerospace Engineering (or similar).

Essential knowledge of: structural mechanics, finite element analysis, computer programming.

Knowledge of: nonlinear mechanics, optimisation methods and composite materials, is desirable.


Formal applications can be completed online:

• Apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering

• State name of the lead supervisor as the Name of Proposed Supervisor

• State ‘Self-funded’ as Intended Source of Funding

• State the exact project title on the application form

When applying please ensure all required documents are attached:

• All degree certificates and transcripts (Undergraduate AND Postgraduate MSc-officially translated into English where necessary)

• Detailed CV, Personal Statement/Motivation Letter and Intended source of funding

Engineering (12) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

This PhD project has no funding attached and is therefore available to students (UK/International) who are able to seek their own funding or sponsorship. Supervisors will not be able to respond to requests to source funding. Details of the cost of study can be found by visiting

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