The Composites Centre, situated within the Aeronautics Department of Imperial College London, develops high fidelity modelling tools to help engineers design more efficient composite structures and avoid the high cost of physical prototype testing. Much of the modelling research is conducted with finite element (FE) codes often incorporating bespoke algorithms to enable the complex failure processes in fibre reinforced composites to be accurately predicted. Recent FE work has included a focus on incorporating thickness dependence of the translaminar fracture process and its application to notched tension failure, a parametric study of the stresses in a composite bolted joint, enrichment strategies for improved delamination modelling, and a tri-linear cohesive law for specimen independent prediction of intralaminar R-curves at quasi-static loading speeds.
For impact and ballistic loading, FE-based techniques to capture progressive failure including strain rate effects have been developed and are being applied to develop improved armour. Mesh-less computational methods hold particular advantages for composites with complex architectures and one technique developed at Imperial has shown good performance in predicting the stiffness of 3-D woven composites. Analytical modelling has also been used to address a range of complex problems including predicting the trajectory of runway stones thrown up by the wheels of an aircraft during take-off and landing, the response of sandwich beams to shock loading and the mechanics of failure development in re-cycled composites. Modelling, both FE and analytical, is also being used extensively within Imperial’s programme grant HiPerDuCT (the UK’s only EPSRC programme grant in composites, £6.5 million) to help evaluate potential mechanisms for incorporating ductility into high performance composites.
Facilities and equipment include a flight area equipped with 3D flight tracker system, high precision laser micro machining system, 3D printer, 3 mechanical and fatigue testing machines, low velocity impact facility, high velocity gas guns, SEM and micro braiding facilities.
Major recent grants include an EPSRC-DSTL award (£1.2 million) to increase the survivability of structures to impact and blast, and MYMOSA, an EU grant (£1.8 million) to improve the safety of motorcyclists.
The department also has additional funding from a range of sources including DSTL, Airbus, and MBDA. The academic team members are Professor Emile Greenhalgh, Professor Paul Robinson, and Professor Milo Schaffer.
Partner interests and experience: