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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/X029018/1
Title: MicroBlast: Understanding and predicting blast loading in complex environments
Principal Investigator: Rigby, Dr SE
Other Investigators:
Selvakumaran, Dr S Clarke, Professor SD Tyas, Professor A
Langdon, Professor GS
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Arup Group Ltd AWE Ministry of Defence (MOD)
Nanyang Technological University New Mexico Institute of Mining and Techn Synthetik Applied Technologies
Thornton Tomasetti Defence Ltd University of Newcastle Australia University of Southampton
Department: Civil and Structural Engineering
Organisation: University of Sheffield
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 August 2023 Ends: 31 July 2026 Value (£): 798,783
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Structural Engineering
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Dec 2022 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 7 and 8 December 2022 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Explosions are a pressing and pervading threat in the modern world. Terrorist events such as the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, large-scale industrial accidents such as the 2020 Beirut explosion, and the current conflict in Ukraine, have highlighted a key gap in our knowledge: we do not we do not yet understand how blast waves propagate and interact with multiple obstacles in complex environments. Accordingly, we cannot yet predict the loading from such events, and our ability to determine the consequences relating to risk, structural damage, and casualty numbers, is severely limited.

Current numerical tools for predicting blast loads in complex environments are either overly simplistic, or physics-based numerical tools which have been hitherto developed in the absence of experimental validation data. Clearly, progress in this area is limited and will remain so until we have the ability to experimentally measure the output from explosions occurring in settings of varying complexity at varying scales.

This proposal will see the development of an ambitious and unique experimental facility, MicroBlast, for ultra-small-scale studies of blast propagation in complex environments, making use of rapid prototyping and 3D printing to generate true replica test specimens. MicroBlast will be a new state-of-the-art apparatus for data-rich, high spatial/temporal resolution, multi-parameter, full-field measurements of blast loading using a combination of pressure sensors, stereo high speed video cameras, and medium-wave infra-red cameras. This facility will be a step-change in our ability to perform rapid, precision experiments in explosive load quantification; the blast equivalent of a wind tunnel or shaking table test.

We aim to study the fundamental mechanisms governing blast load development in complex environments, and set the agenda for future research in this area. Are explosions in crowded environments repeatable and deterministic, or are they highly sensitive to small changes in input parameters? What are the consequences for numerical modelling tools and experimental design? We aim to develop the next generation of predictive approaches for blast in urban environments, and to collectively raise the scientific benchmark of load prediction and structural damage assessment.

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