PhD Studentship: Design of Bespoke Composite Structures Manufactured to be Resistant to Damage

University of Southampton - Fluid Structure Interactions, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment

Woven fabric composites are increasingly used in industry with the global textile composites market worth $4770 million in 2015 and estimated to reach $6597 million by 2020. They are easy to manufacture, making them cheap. Despite the popularity of these composites the key problem is the damage they accumulate during production and operation. The production process can leave voids at the micro-scale that propagate over the life of the product, wrinkles in the plies and dry patches of resin. In operation these small imperfections grow under loading, especially in the joins between component parts where damage is most likely to occur. In most applications off the shelf cloths are bought, shaped and infused together, leaving joins between the components. However it is increasingly possible to weave the entire part as one section, a 3D weave. This bespoke manufacturing will create composites robust to damage, removing the joins and the problems caused during the ply layup. In addition the design can be developed to be resistant to damage propagation, allowing optimisation of the fibres to arrest cracks or route the load path to avoid high stresses. However, the search space to design these composites is massive as each fibre can be designed to carry load in the optimum manner. Genetic algorithms are the common method to perform this type of optimisation. The investigators are the developers of MLSGA, the algorithm which has been shown to have the top performance in optimising weave fabric composites, capable of finding solutions other algorithms cannot. Further advancements can be made to the algorithm to provide a specialist solver for this class of problems.

The aim will therefore be to design composites resiliant to damage through implementation of a state-of-the-art Genetic Algorithm. This will be achieved through the following objectives:

  1. Develop a model of the weave fabric composites.
  2. Integrate models capable of rapidly predicting damage propagation.
  3. Optimise the composite weave patterns for improved damage resistance.

The result will be a state-of-the-art algorithm capable of leading performance on weave fabric structural optimisation problems paired with low computational expense modelling capable of dealing with damaged composites.

Key Facts:

Entry requirements: first or upper second-class degree or equivalent

Assessment: Nine month and 18 month reports, 30 month reports, viva voce and thesis examination

Start date: typically September

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Adam Sobey, Fluid Structure Interactions research group, Email:, Tel: +44 (0) 2380 59 7773. Applying: 

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South East England