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PhD Studentship: Applications of Advanced Imaging and Simulation Methods in Failure Analysis of Composite Materials

School of Engineering

Location:  Highfield Campus
Closing Date:  Saturday 31 August 2019
Reference:  1126919DA

The exploitation of lightweight composite materials represent a vital element in the future efficiency and sustainability of the transportation sector. In common with the early history of fracture and fatigue in metals, the majority of the analytical capability for fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composite design currently consists of empirical fits to large experimental databases to determine “knock-down” factors for structural performance. This has direct negative consequences in realising the potential of composite materials. As part of a long-term collaboration with the international Solvay Group, this project will apply an innovative Data Rich Mechanics approach to the canonical problem of intralaminar toughness in carbon-FRPs by the use of 3-D Computed Tomography (CT) and complementary simulation methods, generating the necessary quantitative materials optimisation and analysis tools for future light-weighting in aerospace and other sectors. The right candidate is expected to have an excellent education within the physical sciences (e.g. Engineering, Physics or Materials Science degree), a grounding in mechanics and composite materials, along with a commitment to an experimentally demanding project (including X-ray imaging at national synchrotron facilities, mechanical testing, 3D data analysis).

High resolution Computed Tomography is a rapidly evolving capability, with increasingly recognised potential to revolutionise non-destructive analysis of composite materials. The project supervisory team are at the forefront of investigating failure mechanisms in composites using CT techniques, specifically addressing micromechanical failure evolution in static, cyclic and impact loaded coupons via laboratory and synchrotron-based facilities. This project will focus on understanding and optimising microstructure to control intralaminar crack paths to promote stable or increasing toughness variation with increasing crack length (the so call ‘R-curve’). In situ X-ray testing will be conducted, with initial high-resolution 3D imaging being carried out using state-of-the-art in-house CT capabilities (Zeiss Versa 510 scanner). This is available through the University’s multi-million investment in the µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre (, an international Centre of Excellence with active collaborations across Europe, the US and Asia. As the project develops, synchrotron radiation computed tomography (SRCT) will additionally be used, exploiting the research team’s many years of experience at national facilities in the UK and Europe. CT findings will be used in various forms to initialise, calibrate and validate finite element (FE) simulations of intralaminar fracture at a microstructural level. The overarching goal will be to build towards a complete ‘virtual test’ capability, with control over specific variables such as neat resin properties and material interfaces, reducing current reliance on empirical, trial-and-error development.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Prof. Ian Sinclair, Engineering Materials research group & µVIS X-ray Imaging Centre (, Email:

Funding and Eligibility

This 3 year studentship covers UK/EU level tuition fees and provides an annual tax-free stipend at the standard EPSRC rate, which is £15,009 for 2019/20.

The funding available is competitive and will only be awarded to an outstanding applicant. As part of the selection process, the strength of the whole application is taken into account, including academic qualifications, personal statement, CV and references.

For further guidance on funding, please contact

How to Apply

Click here to apply and select the programme - PhD in Engineering and the Environment. Please enter the title of the PhD Studentship in the application form.

The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

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