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Microscale characterisation of composite matrix materials: a state-of-the-art study

Department of Mechanical Engineering

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Prof R Butler , Prof Chris Bowen , Dr Alexander Lunt No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Supervisory team: Prof Richard Butler, Prof Chris Bowen & Dr Alexander Lunt


Composite materials now make up over 50% of the structural components used in 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, 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 methods.

This PhD project forms part of a new program of research in the Materials and Structures Centre within the University of Bath which is being directed towards this objective (CerTest - The Centre’s reputation as a world leader in composites has ensured that this undertaking is being performed in collaboration with other prominent research institutions and industrial leaders in composite manufacture. The successful candidate will therefore be joining and supported by an international, dynamic and highly-interactive team.

In order to facilitate effective modelling, an improved understanding of the mechanical and thermal properties of both the matrix and matrix-fibre interfaces of carbon fibre reinforced 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 to perform:

• 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

The results from this analysis will serve as an important reference for future research in the field, with the potential for prominent publications and significant practical outcomes for industry.

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 and will have the opportunity to 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 hold, or expect to receive, an undergraduate Masters first class degree or MSc distinction (or non-UK equivalent). English language entry requirements must be met at the time of application to be considered for funding, see


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.

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

Expected start date: 28 September 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.
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