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PhD in Engineering - High performance bio-inspired topologically optimized and smart composite structures

Project Description

Polymer matrix composites usage is growing rapidly due to their superior strength, stiffness, lightness and low susceptibility to fatigue and corrosion. There is rapid expansion of composite use in aerospace and other applications, such as wind turbine blades, sporting goods and civil engineering. Recent examples include large civil aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350, high performance cars, such as the McLaren 650S, and civil infrastructure, such as the Mount Pleasant bridge on the M6 motorway. Despite this progress, composite structures will often fail through poor design, where stress concentrations appear around sharp changes in topology e.g. edges, holes, corners, or due to concentrated loads such as impact. In addition, the damage in composite materials is hidden and failure is without any warning and mainly catastrophic. Therefore, designers are forced to apply conservative design approaches which do not fully exploit the properties. For example, maximum allowable design strains can be as low as 0.1% for carbon fibre composites, despite maximum failure strains of up to 2%.

This project intends to explore bio-inspired examples of stress distribution in living organisms and to utilise some of those methodologies in the design of composites structures. These designs can be mimicked due to advances in modelling, characterisation and manufacturing of composites. The project’s vision is to develop a new generation of high-performance and smart composite structures based on nature’s generative design principles to overcome the aforementioned limitations. These bio-inspired algorithm-based composites will improve both safety and design strain limits at the same time, shifting the traditional dilemma between performance and safety. A step change in the design and performance will be achieved compared to current materials, resulting in simple and cheap approaches for optimal design and health monitoring. The outcomes of this project will enable full exploitation of the weight saving benefit in composite structures by overcoming the limitations of traditional conservative designs and avoiding expensive inspections. Such materials will provide greater reliability and safety, together with reduced design and maintenance requirements, and longer service life.

The key research questions: 1. How to produce bio-inspired topologically optimized and smart composite structures to overcome the limitations of current composite structures, i.e. over-engineering and catastrophic failure. 2. How to generate design tools for implementation of these high-performance bio-inspired topologically optimized and smart composite structures?

Funding Notes

The studentship is supported by the University of Glasgow, and it will cover home tuition fees and provide a stipend at the UKRI rate for 3.5 years (£15,009 for session 2019/20).

Funding and application: funding for UK/EU students only in a competitive basis.
It should be noted that an offer of admission may be sent out before a decision on the Scholarship is made.

For an informal discussion or further information on this project, please contact:


The ideal candidate will have a strong background in mechanical, aerospace, manufacturing, materials or a relevant degree, with experience of experimental and/or modelling work on composite materials, preferably including evidence of outstanding research, such as previous awards and/or publications.

• 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 (overall 6.5, with minimum of 6 in each subsection), if required.

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