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PhD Studentship (Sponsored by Lloyds Register Foundation) - Structural Longevity for advanced marine vehicles in extreme environments

Project Description


To ensure safety of any engineering system so that human life is protected and the environment is safe it is logical to be able to define when it is operating outside of its design condition. This requires information to be collected on its current state, the environment in which it is operating and how it is being operated at that point when the data is collected. To support the decision makers, this data needs to be analysed correctly and considered in the appropriate perspective.

For many assets, from bridges to offshore platforms and ships, their structural capacity to avoid collapse is of paramount importance to the definition of safety. It is increasingly common to interrogate structures with fixed sensors and sophisticated NDI techniques to paint a picture of residual structural capacity and the amount of statistical data being collected can be large. This provides an opportunity for risk based approaches for design and operational management to be used, thereby allowing a wider perspective for the decision makers to view. Risk based approaches to design can allow insertion of new technologies that more prescriptive design approaches cannot accommodate and in operation allow for condition based maintenance strategies to be used reducing unplanned maintenance actions.

Project Outline

A particularly challenging environment exists for assets in the sea. The response of vessels or platforms are complicated by their condition and their operational parameters at the time and long term predictions of their residual structural capacity have to be made in the face of these complex uncertainties. This doctoral research therefore seeks to apply reliability methods for enhanced design and operational decision making in this complex maritime environment utilising state of the art NDI techniques and in-service monitoring to determine through life structural capacity.

This project is supported by the RNLI who are particularly interested in the derivation of an approach to reliably predict long term performance in extreme environments with particular reference to damage tolerance and progressive failure of their composite vessels. This adds to the novelty of the doctoral research as the prediction of failure modes and the utility of failure models for anisotropic materials within reliability methods is little reported. As such, it’s proposed that the long term predictions are made using limit-state based reliability analysis techniques where failure modes related to strength degradation of composites are considered. Time dependent reliability analysis will be required for both component and system level assessment. Where the system level leads to large design spaces, sampling techniques will be employed. To generate improved reliability estimates, it’s anticipated that condition monitoring data is used in conjunction with Bayesian updating.

About the Industrial Sponsor

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation funds the advancement of engineer-related education and research and supports work that enhances safety of life at sea, on land and in the air, because life matters. Lloyd’s Register Foundation is partly funded by the profits of their trading arm Lloyd’s Register Group Limited, a global engineering, technical and business services organisation.


NSIRC is a state-of-the-art postgraduate engineering facility established and managed by structural integrity specialist TWI, working closely with, top UK and International Universities and a number of leading industrial partners. NSIRC aims to deliver cutting edge research and highly qualified personnel to its key industrial partners.

About the University

The University of Southampton was founded in 1952 and is a member of the prestigious Russell Group. Ranked in the top one per cent of Universities worldwide, Southampton has a global reputation for leading-edge research and innovation. You’ll become part of a dynamic research community working alongside some of the most talented academics and students and with access to first-class facilities. We have a strong track record for attracting research funding – in 2013/14 our research income exceeded £110m and we ranked 8th in the country for UK research council income. The University is home to more than 17,000 undergraduate students and 7,000 postgraduates from over 130 different countries.

Candidate Requirements

Candidates should have a relevant degree at 2.1 minimum, or an equivalent overseas degree in in relevant engineering sciences, mathematics or physics. Candidates with suitable work experience and strong capacity in numerical modelling and experimental skills are particularly welcome to apply. Overseas applicants should also submit IELTS results (minimum 6.5) if applicable.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by Lloyds Register Foundation, TWI and academic partners. The studentship will provide successful Home/EU students with a stipend of £16k/year and will cover the cost of tuition fees. Overseas applicants are welcome to apply, with total funding capped at £24k/year.

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