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Mechanical and thermal characterisation of composite matrix materials for enhanced simulation, design and manufacture

Project Description

Composite materials now make up over 50% of the structural components used in civil aerospace structures. Certification of these components is based on a complex and costly testing routine, which can result in over conservative design and manufacturing requirements. In order to ensure that the next generation of aircraft are commercially viable, significant improvements to these processes are required. Multiscale modelling is an approach which can be used to enhance existing understanding and thereby reduce the amount of testing required through statistical simulation based virtual tests.

This PhD project forms part of a new programme of research (CerTest) in the Materials and Structures Centre within the University of Bath, which is being directed towards this objective. The Centre’s reputation as a world leader in composites has ensured that this undertaking is in collaboration with other prominent research institutions and industrial leaders in composite manufacture.

In order to facilitate effective modelling, an improved understanding of the mechanical and thermal properties of the matrix and matrix-fibre interfaces of carbon fibre composites are required. In particular, the influence of forming parameters such as temperature, matrix composition and curing response need to be better understood. Experimental characterisation of this behaviour, which plays out at the micro-to-nanoscale, is crucial to the success of the project. Therefore the successful candidate will receive in depth training to use the state-of-the-art facilities in Bath, and will design and implement a testing regime based on:

• Microstructure and surface characterisation using spectroscopy, chromatography, tomography and microscopy based methods
• Static and dynamic mechanical property quantification using macroscale testing and nanoindentation, as well as lab and synchrotron X-ray methods
• Thermal property assessment using dilatometry, calorimetry and thermogravimetric analysis
One approach which can be used to tailor these characteristics, is the use of high surface area inclusions (such as nanoscale oxides) and the impact of these will be assessed.

The results from this analysis will serve as an important reference for future research in the field, with prominent publications and significant practical outcomes for industry. The quantitative values will also be used to develop kinetic curing models and will provide reliable inputs for multi-scale modelling, thereby reducing the need for empirical testing.

Suitable candidates should be motivated and enthusiastic about learning new things. An interest in mechanics and experimental testing, as well as prior modelling experience would be beneficial. The successful applicant will benefit from dedicated workshops and will be exposed to multiple disciplines as part of an international, dynamic and highly-interactive team. They will have the opportunity to participate in an industrial secondment and will travel internationally for experimentation and conferences. As a result, the candidate will emerge as a highly qualified expert with a balanced skill set and excellent industrial connections.


Applicants should ideally have graduated (or be due to graduate) with an undergraduate Masters first class degree and/or MSc distinction (or equivalent overseas qualification). English language requirements must be met at the time of application to be considered for funding.


Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. Please ensure that you state the full project title and lead supervisor name on the application form.

A full application must be submitted by the application deadline, including all supporting documents, to enable review.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found here:

Anticipated start date: Applications will be reviewed for January 2020

Funding Notes

Funding is expected to cover UK/EU tuition fees, maintenance stipend £15,009 per annum (2019/20 rate) and training support fee of £1,000 per annum for up to 3 years.

How good is research at University of Bath in Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 61.00

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

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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