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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/T011653/1
Title: Next Generation Fibre-Reinforced Composites: a Full Scale Redesign for Compression
Principal Investigator: Shaffer, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Trask, Professor RS Robinson, Professor P Hamerton, Professor I
Eichhorn, Professor S Allegri, Dr G Pinho, Professor ST
Pimenta, Dr S Wisnom, Professor M Greenhalgh, Professor ES
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Airbus Operations Limited BAE Systems Centre for Process Innovation CPI (UK)
GKN Aerospace (Melrose) Hexcel Composites Ltd National Composites Centre
Rolls-Royce Plc (UK) Solvay Group (UK) Thomas Swan
University of Vienna Vestas Victrex plc
Department: Materials
Organisation: Imperial College London
Scheme: Programme Grants
Starts: 01 July 2020 Ends: 30 June 2025 Value (£): 6,205,244
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufacturing Machine & Plant Materials Characterisation
Materials Processing Materials testing & eng.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
15 Oct 2019 Programme Grant Interviews - 16 October 2019 (Eng) Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
High performance fibre-reinforced polymer composites are the current state-of-the-art for lightweight structures and their use is rising exponentially in a wide range of applications from aerospace to sporting goods. They offer outstanding mechanical properties: high strength and stiffness, low weight, and low susceptibility to fatigue and corrosion. The use of high strength, high stiffness materials in fibre form mitigates the tendency for premature brittle failure, enables components to be formed at low or moderate temperatures, and enables anisotropic designs to target the primary load-carrying demands. Fibres are particularly efficient in uniaxial tension but, under compression, composites suffer a range of failures typically associated with fibre micro-buckling or kinking, linked to matrix or interfacial issues; these mechanisms couple in a complicated way at a variety of physical lengthscales. Often, these types of failure determine the practical usage of composites and set design limits well below the expected intrinsic performance of the constituent fibres. On the other hand, new constituents and processes are becoming available that enable the directed assembly of composite structures, controlled across a much wider range of lengthscales than previously possible. In principle, then, composite materials should be redesigned to take advantage of these opportunities to supress or redirect the failure process in compression. Natural materials, such as wood and bone, are fully hierarchical, with precise structural features resolved at every possible magnification. Artificial composites lack this dexterity but can exploit intrinsically superior constituents. The increasing ability to visualise, calculate, and control structures, including with quantitative precision, will allow a new generation of composite materials to be developed. The ambition is to realise the full intrinsic potential of the fibres by designing such hierarchical systems for compression, from first principles, exploiting the latest developments in materials, processing, characterisation, and modelling of mechanistic processes.

This programme focusses on the challenge of improving the absolute performance of composites in compression, both to address practical limitations of current materials, and as a demonstration of the value of quantitative hierarchical materials design. Tools and materials developed during this programme will be useful in a range of other contexts. The work will develop and embed structure at every lengthscale from the molecules of the matrix, to the lay-up of final components, using new constituents and new architectures, designed with a new analytical framework. The programme will benefit from a highly creative and interdisciplinary approach amongst the core project term, amplified by contributions from leading international advisors and collaborators. An extensive group of industrial partners will contribute to the project, and help to develop the outputs, building on concept demonstrators designed during the programme. The scientific and technical results will be widely disseminated nationally and internationally, helping to ensure UK leadership in this key field.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.imperial.ac.uk