£6 million to develop a new generation of composites
Press release issued: 28 March 2011
A collaborative research team from the University of Bristol and Imperial College London have been awarded a grant to develop a new generation of high performance, fibre reinforced polymer composites.
The team from the University of Bristol’s Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science and The Composites Centre at Imperial College London have been awarded a £6 million six-year programme grant by EPSRC. The aim of the project is to create a new generation of high performance, ductile fibre reinforced polymer composites capable of sustaining large deformations without breaking.
The team is led by Professor Michael Wisnom at the University of Bristol and Professor Alexander Bismarck at Imperial College London, and supported by partners including BAE Systems, dstl, Halliburton, Hexcel, Mouchel, Rolls-Royce and Vestas.
Advanced composites, based on carbon, glass and aramid fibres, are a vital low weight material technology that also offer operational savings and extended service lifetimes. These materials are being implemented in rapidly increasing volumes, with the UK supply of advanced composite systems currently around £1.6 billion per year and growing rapidly.
Professor Wisnom, Director of ACCIS, said: “Conventional polymer matrix composites offer high strength and stiffness, low weight, and low susceptibility to fatigue and corrosion, and we are witnessing a rapid expansion of their use in aerospace and other applications, such as wind turbine blades, sporting goods and civil engineering.
“Despite this progress, a fundamental limitation of current composites is their inherent brittleness. Failure can be sudden and catastrophic, with little warning or residual load carrying capacity.”
Professor Bismarck added: “High performance ductile composites will enable robust panels, which dent without significant loss in performance, and super-light, complex structures which indicate an overload by significant deformation but continue to support load without catastrophic failure.
“Such materials will provide greater reliability and safety, together with reduced design and maintenance requirements, and longer service life”.
Ensuring materials are ductile will overcome reticence for their use in safety critical or damage vulnerable applications, thereby significantly increasing their attractiveness for mass-market applications. Also, the widespread use of high performance ductile composites could achieve a very significant reduction of up to 15 per cent in the overall greenhouse gas contribution of transport.
To achieve such an ambitious outcome will require a concerted effort by the team to develop new constituents and exploit novel architectures, in order to obtain fracture toughness and ductility comparable to that of metals, and with considerably superior strength, stiffness and density. This programme grant will scope, prioritise, develop, and combine these approaches, to achieve High Performance Ductile Composite Technology (HiPerDuCT).
The research programme team are the University of Bristol: Professor Michael Wisnom, Professor Ian Bond, Professor Kevin Potter and Professor Paul Weaver and Imperial College London: Professor Alexander Bismarck, Professor Milo Shaffer, Dr Paul Robinson and Dr Joachim Steinke.
Further informationAbout Imperial College London
Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 14,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.
Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial’s contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve global health, tackle climate change, develop sustainable sources of energy and address security challenges.
In 2007, Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust formed the UK’s first Academic Health Science Centre. This unique partnership aims to improve the quality of life of patients and populations by taking new discoveries and translating them into new therapies as quickly as possible.
About the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £850m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.
The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via research Councils UK.