Unique Modelling Capability for Composite Manufacturing

The National Composite Centre (NCC) held an event focused on ‘Demystifying Digital Engineering’ on 23 March. This was an opportunity for guests to view and interact with a range of digital technology and skills demonstrators that accelerate engineering transformation, identifying efficiencies in product, process and technology development. This will inspire the next generation of engineers to engage with tools developed in the DETI (Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation) R&D initiative.

The Bristol Composites Institute (BCI) demonstrated a simulation tool that provides uniquely fast, and accurate simulations for the manufacturing of composite components. The automated simulation tools developed are available for industry use from BCI and the NCC, which results in significant cost savings per part by reducing the need for physical trials, which could in turn eliminate one or more design cycles. The University of Bristol also contributed to DETI with 5G work on Enabling Quantum-secure 5G enabled Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) for manufacturing, through the Smart Internet Lab, and the challenge of Enabling the Digital Thread in small engineering projects in work between CFMS and the University’s Engineering Systems and Design Institute.

People looking at the BCI stand at the event  People sat watching a presentation in a conference room

BCI Doctoral Research Symposium 2023

On 4 April 2023 the Bristol Composites Institute (BCI) welcomed over 100 delegates from academia and industry to the Bill Brown Design Suite, Queen’s Building, for its annual Doctoral Research Symposium.

Attendees of BCI Symposium listening to a presentation

Doctoral students from the BCI, including 38 students from the EPSRC CDT in Composites Science, Engineering and Manufacturing (CoSEM CDT), showcased their innovative composites research through an impressive display of posters and presentations. 

Delegates were treated to a rapid-fire journey through the cutting-edge of composites research, with 25 presentations on topics spanning all three themes of the institute. Slides can be found on the Symposium webpage; recordings will be added to the BCI YouTube Channel 

Posters from the day were collated into an electronic Poster Booklet.

Attendee stood next to their poster board

Congratulations to all the winners of the poster competition:

  • Delegate vote: Charles de Kergariou. (Runners up: Stefania Akromah and Tom Brereton) 
  • Student vote: Stefania Akromah. (Runners up: Charlie Brewster and Charles De Kergariou) 


Documenting the morning’s events was local artist, Helen Frost. Her Graphic visualisation of the Symposium gives a flavour of what it was like to be there on the day.  

An artist drawing illustrations across a large canvas

Following the Symposium, students attended an industry-led discussion panel, comprising experts from Airbus UpNext, GKN Aerospace, Leonardo Helicopters, Sigmatex UK and Vertical Aerospace. Student Nuhaadh Mahid remarked that this “provided the rare opportunity to clarify industry-related questions about their current projects and reasoning behind various design choices.” 


To cap off the day staff and students gathered in the Wills Memorial Building for the Symposium dinner to mark the culmination of another year of hard work.

BCI Co-Director, Prof. Ole Thomsen, said: “The display of high-quality research of our BCI doctoral students was truly impressive. This was duly noted and recognised by the external attendees including project partners. It was indeed a good day for BCI!” 

Attendee stood next to their poster board

Two attendees looking at poster board

The Composites Perspectives Series

Last year the Bristol Composites Institute launched “Composites Perspectives”, a series of talks each focusing on different topics and including two composite-expert speakers. Since June 2022, the BCI has hosted three Composite Perspectives events, with the next one arranged for 11 July 2023 (details on how to register will be released soon).

The first Composites Perspectives event took place on 14 June 2022 and saw Professor Richard Oldfield (Chief Executive, UK National Composites Centre and Honorary Industrial Professor, University of Bristol) and Professor Pascal Hubert (Werner Graupe Chair on Sustainable Composites Manufacturing and Director at the Research Center for High Performance Polymer and Composite Systems, McGill University, Canada) discuss “Composites Role in Delivering Net Zero” and “Solutions for Zero Waste Composite Prepreg Processing”, respectively.

These talks became part of a wider ‘Sustainable Composites’ programme, and in September 2022 guest speaker Dr. Tia Benson-Tolle (Director, Advanced Materials and Sustainability, Boeing Commercial Aircraft) covered the importance of “Circularity and Recycling” within sustainable composites, and Professor Ian Hamerton (NCC Professor of Polymers and Sustainable Composites, University of Bristol) discussed the “High Performance Discontinuous Fibre technology (HiPerDiF)”.

The most recent event, which took place on 14 March 2023,  focused on Transformation in Engineering, with talks from Professor Mike Hinton, Consultant in Research and Technology Partnerships, High Value Manufacturing Catapult (“Engineering Transformation”) and Professor Ole Thomsen, Co-Director of Bristol Composites Institute and NCC Chair in Composites Design and Manufacture (“Towards virtual validation of composites structures – rethinking the testing pyramid approach”).

You can read about the previous events here and recordings of each session are available to view on the BCI Youtube Channel.

We look forward to inviting you to our future Composites Perspectives events.

BCI / NCC Joint Annual Conference, 10 November 2022

Last November, the Bristol Composites Institute and National Composites Centre presented the 2022 BCI NCC Joint Annual Conference, which addressed some of the key engineering challenges of our time, particularly focusing on how composites will ensure a net zero future for the UK.

The conference showcased the cross-TRL work we conduct together and how we can work in partnership with industry to advance and optimise their technology developments and fast-track innovation.

The morning session included updates from the NCC and BCI on their work in Sustainability, Hydrogen and Digital and the afternoon session focused on transitional research and how the gap between the technology readiness levels can be bridged. There was also a keynote presentation from Kate Barnard (WhatBox – Consultants facilitating mutually beneficial partnerships (whatboxltd.com)) which was followed by a panel session chaired by Michele Barbour and featured Matt Scott, Valeska Ting, Evangelos Zympeloudis, Kate Robson-Brown and Musty Rampuri and sparked plenty of thoughtful discussions between guests and speakers.

The conference, which was held at the NCC in Emersons Green, Bristol, welcomed over 60 people in-person, and had an additional 40 online attendees. Details of the 2023 joint conference will be released later in the year.

Guests listening to a presentation at the conference Guests listening to a presentation at the conference

Engineering with Origami

Armed with a large collection of origami models (which handily packed down for the journey to London), Aerospace Engineering academic Mark Schenk recently gave an outreach talk on Engineering with Origami at the Royal Institution (https://www.rigb.org/whats-on/engineering-origami). The talk attracted a diverse family audience to the lecture theatre famous for its Christmas Lectures.

A demonstration of origami being given to children

Origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding, has received widespread attention from mathematicians, scientists and engineers to understand its properties and explore its applications. In his talk, Mark introduced the audience to some surprising examples of folding (have you ever looked closely at Mona Lisa’s sleeves?) and a few underlying mathematical principles of origami, ultimately leading to a surprising diversity of engineering applications.

A view of the lecture hall used to give the talk on origami engineering

These applications range from designer materials with tailored properties, to self-folding origami and deployable structures in space. To get a hands-on feel for engineering origami, the audience were asked to fold their own Miura-ori sheet (a common fold pattern used in engineering origami) from a laser cut pattern, and after the talk they explored the various engineering origami models brought to the lecture.


The event was hosted by the Dutch Embassy in the United Kingdom, and supported by the Dutch Academic Network in the UK (DANinUK).

Promoting Sustainability by Solving Wind Turbine Design Challenges

Photo of Terence Macquart Photo of Alberto PirreraPhoto of Paul Weaver




by Terence Macquart (terence.macquart@bristol.ac.uk), Alberto Pirrera, and Paul Weaver 

Wind energy is recognised as one of the greenest sources of energy, meaning that energy produced from wind turbines is generally less harmful to the environment than other energy sources, especially coal and gas. In other words, substituting fossil-based fuel with wind power is a great leap toward a more sustainable future. Although wind energy today only contributes a small fraction to the total energy consumed worldwide, considerable societal efforts are being made to build more turbines and wind farms to increase our wind energy capacity and hence produce cleaner energy. This is obvious in the UK, where the government aims to reach 50 MW of installed capacity by the end of 2030, quintupling its current wind energy capacity, a formidable aspiration. 

Modern wind turbine technology has rapidly evolved over the past decades to meet the rising demand for wind power. This can be seen by the gigantic size of modern turbines, dwarfing even the largest aircraft ever created. Such large and complex systems come with engineering and sustainability challenges of their own. The wind blade research hub (WBRH) is a collaboration between the University of Bristol and the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult (OREC) that aims to address some of these challenges, as illustrated by the breadth of our work in the Figure below. Read more about each challenge addressed by researchers at the WBRH in the following paragraph. 

Figure 1 : Overview of the wind blade research hub activities at the University of Bristol (REF: Mackie (2020) Establishing the optimal conditions for rotating arm erosion testing, materials characterisation and computational modelling of wind turbine blade rain erosion)


Infographic of wind turbine resaearch

Improving wind turbine performance with holistic design tools: 

Photo of Samuel Scott
by Samuel Scott; Terence Macquart terence.macquart@bristol.ac.uk

Although the design of wind turbines appears to be mature because we are repeatedly exposed to the familiar 3-bladed upwind turbine design, we know that their performance and sustainability could be further improved. However, wind turbines are also complex systems, and it is, therefore, very difficult, even sometimes impossible, to fully understand the impact that a change in design can have on the overall turbine performance. To overcome this challenge, our group has developed a sophisticated set of analysis and design tools which can navigate the complex design space of wind turbines and helps us better understand the design trade-offs we can make to improve them, leading to non-conventional designs as shown in the figure below. Reducing weight, also called light weighting, is a prime example of how such tools can help the wind industry; that is, by achieving a better understanding of aerodynamic and inertial loads on blades we can design lighter and more efficient blades, resulting in less raw materials being needed and more energy generated over the turbine lifespan. If you are interested in reading more on this topic, see the work of Dr. Samuel Scott (https://research-information.bris.ac.uk/ws/portalfiles/portal/312520978/Thesis_SamScott_Final.pdf). 

Figure 2: Non-conventional design planform of a 15MW wind turbine blade, outperforming conventional designs. AC: Aerodynamic Centre, FA: Flexural Axis

Graphic of a graph   

Wind Turbine End-of-Life:

Photo of Ian Hamerton
by Ian Hamerton & Terence Macquart

Large wind turbine blades require very strong material such as carbon fibre reinforced polymers which cannot currently be recycled effectively at large scales. As a result, at their end-of-life blades often go to landfills or are incinerated. In such cases, the costly carbon fibres making up the blade are lost, and new virgin material must be made. However, manufacturing virgin carbon fibres requires manufacturing process that are energy demanding and emit a lot of greenhouse gases. By contrast, materials that can be recycled, such as the steel making up the wind turbine tower, typically requires less energy to be made re-usable and emit less greenhouse gases (e.g. recycling steel reduces greenhouse gases emission by about 70-80%). The WBRH has two strands of research aiming to reduce the carbon footprint of wind turbines. The first one aims to rethink the design of modern turbines, using comprehensive design tools and life cycle analysis methods, to create new designs that can be made of more sustainable material. The second research strand investigates scalable ways in which we can recycle carbon fibres into new structural components, hence diminishing the overall environmental impact of wind turbine blades (Ian, Hyperdif, Lineat). 

Leading Edge Erosion: 

Photo Imad Ouachan Photo of Robbie Heering

by Imad Ouachan and Robbie Heering

 Leading edge erosion has   developed into a significant issue for the wind industry. Raindrops, hailstones, and other particles impacting the leading edges of the blades cause material to be removed. This leaves a roughened blade surface, which degrades the aerodynamic performance of the blade, and hence its power production. The problem appears to be accelerated offshore due to high blade tip speeds and harsher operation environments. Viscoelastic Leading Edge Protection (LEP) systems are applied to the leading edge of blade to mitigate the onset of erosion. However, there is currently no LEP that lasts the lifetime of the turbine and regular repair is required. It is estimated that the issue costs £1.3m per turbine over its lifetime [X]. To support the development of improved LEP systems, the WBRH has worked with industrial LEP companies to investigate two key areas: (i) an understanding of the viscoelasticity of LEP systems and (ii) mechanisms to test and predict LEP performance. On the former, the WBRH has developed bespoke techniques to understand the drivers of LEP erosion performance by expanding knowledge in strain and frequency dependent behaviour and measurement techniques, including dynamic mechanical thermal analysis, acoustic measurement, and nano indentation. On the latter, a prediction model to relate an LEP’s test performance to its in-situ performance has been developed. This included an exploration of current erosion testing mechanisms to enhance their ability to realistically evaluate performance and the first characterisation of a wind turbine’s erosion environment. Together these two pieces of research have developed significant understanding of the drivers of erosion and important material properties, providing the wind industry with tools to further develop LEP systems and combat the important challenge of leading edge erosion. 

Modular blades: 

Photo of Alex Moss
by Alex Moss

The overall aim of this work is to enable faster,  cheaper, and easier production of wind turbine blades, which will help to reduce global dependence on fossil fuels. This is achieved through additive manufacturing, which will be used to build the internal structure of the blade. Acting as the composite layup surface, this would replace the costly and energy intensive steel-backed composite moulds currently used. Introducing automation into production process could lead to the creation of an assembly line, helping to make the 3 blades per day required to hit 2030 wind energy targets. To design these novel blade structures, topology optimisation is used to find the lightest possible configuration, reducing material use and energy. The wider industry is beginning to use recyclable materials to cut down on landfill waste at the end of life. The printed material takes this one step further, using recycled chopped carbon and glass fibre inside a recyclable resin. The printed material also replaces the balsa wood cores, into which the resin leaks during infusion which is wasted material and makes the balsa unrecyclable.  

Advanced numerical models:

Photo of Sander Van den Broek
by Sander Van den Broek

As blades increase in length, they become increasingly difficult to structurally model. Traditional approaches using shell elements cannot accurately model the torsional stiffness as failure modes that become more important at larger length scales. At the same time, solid elements found in commercial finite element software are limited to lower-order descriptions of displacement fields. Convergence using lower order solid elements would require an excessive number of elements, becoming computationally prohibitive. Ongoing work at the WBRH is to develop higher-order structural modelling techniques that can simulate the nonlinear stresses and evaluate the stability of large wind turbine blades. 

Composites for Hydrogen Storage for Green Aviation

by Valeska Ting v.ting@bristol.ac.uk; James Griffith james.griffith@bristol.ac.uk; Charlie Brewster c.d.brewster@bristol.ac.uk; Lui Terry lt7006@bristol.ac.uk  


Of all of the modes of transportation that we need to decarbonize, air travel is perhaps the most challenging. In contrast to road or marine transport, which can realistically be delivered with battery or hybrid technologies, the sheer weight of even the best available batteries makes long-haul air travel (such as is needed to maintain our current levels of international mobility) prohibitive. Hydrogen is an extremely light, yet supremely energy-dense energy vector. It contains three times more energy per kilogram than jet fuel, which is why hydrogen is traditionally used as rocket fuel.   

Companies like Airbus are currently developing commercial zero-emission aircraft powered by hydrogen. A key challenge for the use of hydrogen is that it is a gas at room temperature, requiring use of very low temperatures and specialist infrastructure to allow its storage in a more convenient liquid form. To deliver this disruptive technology Airbus are undertaking a radical redesign of their future fleet to enable the use of liquid hydrogen fuel tanks[5].

A jet flying in the sky

In its liquid form, hydrogen needs to be stored at –253oC. At these temperatures, traditional polymer matrices are susceptible to microcracking due to the build-up of thermally induced residual stresses. Research at the Bristol Composites Institute at the University of Bristol is looking at how we can develop new materials to produce tough, microcrack resistant matrices for lightweight composite liquid hydrogen storage tanks. 

We are also looking at the use of smart composites involving nanoporous materials – materials that behave like molecular sponges to spontaneously adsorb and store hydrogen at high densities– for onboard hydrogen storage for future aircraft designs. Hydrogen adheres to the surface of these materials; more surface area equals more hydrogen. One gram of our materials has more surface area than 5 tennis courts, with microscopic pores less than 1 billionth of a meter in diameter. These properties allow us to store hydrogen at densities hundreds of times greater than bulk hydrogen under the same conditions. Whilst simultaneously improving the conditions currently needed for onboard hydrogen storage. Our research looks to improve this by tailoring the composition of these materials to store even greater quantities of hydrogen beyond the densities dictated by surface area.  

With hydrogen quickly becoming recognised around the world as the aviation fuel of the future, France and Germany are investing billions in ambitious plans for hydrogen-powered passenger aircraft. To keep pace with the development of new aircraft by industry, there is a parallel need for rapid investment into refuelling infrastructure at international airports to allow storage and delivery of the liquid hydrogen fuel. Urgent investment to also upgrade the hydrogen supply chain is imperative. The UK Government’s announcement of new investment in wind turbines and offshore renewables will certainly boost the UK’s ability to generate sustainable hydrogen fuel and presents additional opportunities for new industries and markets.  

It seems industry is finally ready to take the leap away from its reliance on fossil fuel to more sustainable technologies. Decisive action and public investment into upgrading our hydrogen infrastructure will allow us to realise the many benefits of this and will make sure the UK remains competitive in this low-carbon future.



Images and permissions available from: 


[1] Hydrogen-powered aviation – A fact-based study of hydrogen technology, economics, and climate impact by 2050 https://www.fch.europa.eu/sites/default/files/FCH%20Docs/20200507_Hydrogen%20Powered%20Aviation%20report_FINAL%
[2] Liquid Hydrogen–the Fuel of Choice for Space Exploration https://www.nasa.gov/content/liquid-hydrogen-the-fuel-of-choice-for-space-exploration 
[3] Airbus looks to the future with hydrogen planes
[4] Liquid Hydrogen Delivery
[5] Airbus reveals new zero-emission concept aircraft https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en/2020/09/airbus-reveals-new-zeroemission-concept-aircraft.html 
[6] Bristol Composites Institute
[7] Nanocage aims to trap and release hydrogen on demand https://www.theengineer.co.uk/nanocage-hydrogen-gas/ 
[8] Engineering porous materials
[9] France bets on green plane in package to ‘save’ aerospace sector https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-france-aerospace/france-bets-on-green-plane-in-package-to-save-aerospace-sector-idUKKBN23G0TB 
[10] Germany plans to promote ‘green’ hydrogen with €7 billion https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/germany-plans-to-promote-green-hydrogen-with-e7-billion/ 
[11] EU Hydrogen Roadmap https://www.fch.europa.eu/sites/default/files/Hydrogen%20Roadmap%20Europe_Report.pdf 
[12] Boris Johnson: Wind farms could power every home by 2030 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-54421489  

Natural Fibre Composites Research

Testing the Mechanical Performance of Nature Fibre Composites.

Head shot of Owen Tyley by Owen Tyley owen.tyley.2019@bristol.ac.uk; Tobias Laux tobi.laux@bristol.ac.uk; Neha Chandarana neha.chandarana@bristol.ac.uk 

Manufacturers are increasingly looking to develop new natural fibre composites (NFCs) to lower the environmental impact of structures such as wind turbine blades and automotive panelling. For these to be brought to market, their mechanical performance must be understood throughout their operating temperature range. This is ordinarily conducted using strain gauges, though the cost of purchasing and installing strain gauges makes this a relatively expensive undertaking. By contrast, digital image correlation (DIC) is an optically-based imaging technique which can determine the strains on an object such as a standardised testing coupon, at much lower cost. However, the reliability of DIC for composite coupons at elevated temperatures is not well-understood. 

Black and white photo of natural fibre composites

As part of a summer internship project supported by the Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials, the tensile moduli of flax- and carbon-fibre reinforced polymers using both DIC and strain gauges at temperatures up to 120°C were compared. Preliminary results suggest that the modulus as determined through DIC is the same as for strain gauges, but with greater uncertainties. It is therefore suggested that DIC could be a suitable method for determining the mechanical properties of NFCs for non-safety-critical applications, and as part of early-stage research and development for new natural-fibre composites. 


Flax: A sustainable alternative to glass fibres in wind turbines?




by Abdirahman Sheik Hassan a.sh.2019@bristol.ac.ukNeha Chandarana neha.chandarana@bristol.ac.uk ; Terence Macquart

Flax-fibre composites have been widely praised as a high-performance sustainable alternative to synthetic fibres in the composites industry. However, as with many natural fibre composites, the mechanical properties (strength, stiffness) of flax-fibre composites do not match up to their synthetic counterparts. This study assesses the suitability of flax-fibre reinforced composites as a replacement for glass-fibre composites in the context of a wind turbine blade using a life cycle engineering approach.Research on a computer screen Finite element analysis (FEA) was used to determine the design alterations required for comparable performance, followed by a cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment to ascertain the subsequent environmental impact of these alterations. The preliminary results show a significantly greater volume of material is required in a flax-fibre blade to match reserve factor and deflection requirements; however, these models do show reduced environmental impact compared with the glass-fibre composite blades. End-of-life options assessed include landfill and incineration, with and without energy reclamation. 


Amphiphilic Cellulous for Emulsion Stabilisation and Thermoplastic Composites.

Headshot of Amaka Onyianta Headshot of Steve Eichhorn by Amaka Onyianta a.j.onyianta@bristol.ac.uk; Steve Eichhorn s.j.eichhorn@bristol.ac.uk

Biobased polymers, commonly referred to as bioplastics, are made from plant or other biological material instead of petroleum. They, therefore, present opportunities for the development of sustainable plastics from a wide range of pre-cursors including corn, vegetable oil and cellulose. Cellulose, the most abundant polymer on earth, is also renewable material available from vast resources such as wood, plant, bacteria and even sea animal tunicates. Considerable research efforts have been put into developing cellulose-based biopolymers. However, despite all its advantages, cellulose due to its hydrophilic (water-loving) nature presents a significant challenge with respect to blending with other polymers which are often hydrophobic (water-repelling).  

Diagram showing amphiphilic cellulose coated polypropylene composites

To address this challenge, our group is exploring surface modification of cellulose to make it hydrophobic. One such modification we have investigated results in a material that is not only hydrophobic, but largely retains the inherent hydrophilicity of cellulose, leading to an all-new class of material: amphiphilic cellulose. Due to this amphiphilic nature, the cellulose can stabilise oil-in-water emulsions, making it attractive for various applications including in the personal care products sector where consumer desire for nature-based products is increasingly driving demand.    

It is also recognised that while material sources can be sustainable, processing techniques also need to be sustainable for this credential to hold for the final product. Work within our group is therefore also looking into aqueous processing of amphiphilic cellulose with thermoplastics to yield biobased sustainable composite materials with improved tensile modulus. Moreover, the melting profile of the thermoplastic is not affected by the process, neither is a pre-step of compounding needed as seen in the traditional process for incorporation of fillers in thermoplastic composites.  

Working with Airbus in Composite Manufacturing R&T

We interviewed Bristol Composites Institute PhD student Michael O’Leary about his PhD project and the mutual benefits of working with Airbus on a cutting-edge research project.

How did you end up studying at the Bristol Composites Institute?

man looking at the camera smiling
Michael O’Leary

On leaving school, I realised I wanted to pursue a degree in Engineering, eventually specialising in Aeronautical Engineering and graduating with my bachelors from the University of Limerick. I had my final year project examined by Professor Paul Weaver, who recommended applying to the Bristol Composites Institute for PhD.

I decided that the Centre for Doctoral Training would be a great fit for me as I had enjoyed the research aspect of my final year. The collaborative environment of the CDT, being surrounded by people with similar research interests and skills, was a great selling point for me.

What are you working on?

My project is focused on integrated structures with semi-cured elements.

For future wing structure, we are moving towards more highly integrated and larger structures. As we make these integrated structures, we start to encounter some of the manufacturing challenges associated with the scale, such as element alignment and complexity.

The objective of my project is to break the integrated structure back down into smaller pieces and use them semi-cured as a building block to bring them back together. For instance, the state of the art for current structures manufacturing is using a skin, bonded stringers, and bolted ribs. Why not semi-cure each individual part and integrate them all together for a final cure?

How do you manufacture integrated structures with semi-cured elements?

The manufacturing process is a two-step curing process. The initial step is to create the semi-cured elements with a pre-designated degree of curing, somewhere between uncured and fully cured, hence the name. After the curing process, the semi-cured element can be stored, trimmed, and inspected. If they are of acceptable quality, they can then be integrated.

What are some of the manufacturing challenges when using semi-cured elements?

The main manufacturing challenges that we are facing are about determining the degree of curing and scaling, especially for more complex geometries as there are tooling requirements that can complicate the process.

Regardless of specimen manufacturing method fibre bridging was witnessed during DCB testing
Double Cantilever Beam tests were carried out on initially semi-cured and normal, single step, fully cured laminates, with both sample sets displaying similar failure patterns, and failure loads.

What are the next steps for this work?

The next steps are to continue to determine the optimal degree of cure for semi-curing along with better understanding how semi-cured interfaces are forming. Outside of this, we will continue to prove the feasibility of semi-curing by starting to produce parts at a scale greater than coupon level.

How will the project results benefit the academic and industrial project partners?

Proving the feasibility of this work will provide the industry with an additional manufacturing tool that they can use when designing future structures. Hopefully, my work will lead to further questions which can be posed to incoming PhD candidates.

How has your cooperation with industrial partners supported the development of this project or your skills?

My primary industrial partner is Airbus. The industrial supervisors have been very helpful and supportive providing important technical knowledge and ideas which have made their way into my work. Having an industrial project gives a different perspective, it really helps me to see how my work can be applied in the real world.

Through this industrial project, I had the opportunity to interact with one of the world’s largest aerospace manufacturers. It has helped foster relationships which would not have been possible outside of this project.

CerTest – Certification for Design: Reshaping the Testing Pyramid

One of the larger activities currently happening at the Bristol Composites Institute is CerTest. This EPSRC (UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) Programme Grant, with £6.9million of funding, started in July 2019 and will run for 5 years.

CerTest is led by Bristol Composites Institute Co-director, Professor Ole Thomsen at the University of Bristol, with academic collaboration partners at the University of Bath, University of Exeter, and University of Southampton.

The aim of the research in this multidisciplinary project is to develop new approaches to enable lighter, more cost and fuel-efficient composite aero-structures. This vision will be realised through four flexible but highly interlinked research challenges:

  1. Multi Scale Performance Modelling
  2. Features and Damage Characterisation
  3. Data-rich High Fidelity Structural Characterisation
  4. Integration and Methodology Validation

The four research challenges will result in a new approach for integrated high-fidelity structural testing and multi-scale statistical modelling through Design of Experiments (DoE) and Bayesian Learning.

The efficient exploitation and optimisation of advanced composite aero-structures is fundamentally prohibited by current test, simulation and certification approaches, and CerTest seeks to break this impasse by holistically addressing the challenges that are preventing step-changes in future engineering design by reshaping the ‘Testing Pyramid’.

The CerTest project is supported by seven key industry partners who provide important steer and valuable market insight along with several funded studentships. Airbus, Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, GKN Aerospace, NCC, the Alan Turing Institute, and CFMS meet with the CerTest team at least twice a year and are keen to see the research succeed.

The project is further supported by an Independent Advisory Board of experts from international and UK based academia, industry and regulators that provide further guidance and support to ensuring CerTest reaches its full potential and realises its goals and objectives.

This is one of the largest collaborations the Bristol Composites Institute has ever undertaken, and a lot of groundwork has gone into supporting the collaboration, flow and sharing of data between the partners. The current CerTest team has 37 members and counting.

group of co-workers standing in front of a building
The CerTest team at an internal meeting held at the National Composites Centre.

Further information

For more information and updates, visit the CerTest website.