Micromechanics of deformation and damage in composite materials

Composite materials are versatile materials and have found increased use in all areas of engineering where high strength, low weight materials are needed. The unique characteristics of these materials at different length scales also poses a challenge in understanding the mechanical behaviour which is essential to the design of reliable structures. Most of the current models are based on continuum mechanics which although, appropriate for certain settings do not fully integrate  the phenomena at microscopic scale such as debonding of fibres and matrix, failure of individual fibres within the composite materials. Although there has been steady development of models that address some micromechanical aspects, the models are limited due to lack of quality experimental data for calibration. The current project intends to address this gap in the knowledge.

This aim of the project is to understand the microscopic phenomena associated with deformation and damage at elemental level (e.g. fibre, matrix, interface) to build a stronger macroscopic framework for the properties measured at larger length scale (e.g. cm). The aim of the project is achieved through the following objectives:

  1. Determination of macroscopic properties (e.g. mechanical strength, elastic modulus) of selected composite materials in the laboratory.
  2. Acquisition of 3D xray and neutron tomograms for selected composite materials under uniaxial and biaxial states of stress.
  3. Undertaking segmentation of the acquired tomograms to identify the microscopic features relating to deformation and damage and extract selected microscopic features.
  4. Undertake micromechanical modelling (e.g. discrete element method) of the composite material and calibrate using the acquired data from 3D tomography.
  5. Formulate a multiscale framework and validate using the data acquired in the laboratory.

This project involves undertaking experiments at beamline facilities external to the University and the prospective candidates should be prepared to travel and conduct the experiments offsite.

It is expected that the applicant have background or experience in fracture mechanics, designing and undertaking experiments and numerical modelling. We are particularly interested to hear from applicants with experience in conducting experiments in x-ray or neutron beamlines and have experience in computed tomography.

The student will be part of Composite Materials Group within the Institute of Materials and Processes and join a vibrant community of PhD students, post doctoral associates and academics working in various aspects of composites. It is also house of exciting test facilities such as FASTBLADE, one of the unique facilities enabling full scale testing facility for blades of tidal turbines.

Further Information: 

The University of Edinburgh is committed to equality of opportunity for all its staff and students, and promotes a culture of inclusivity. Please see details here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity

Closing Date: 

Friday, March 31, 2023

Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant Supervisor: 


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.

An undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering or Physics/Applied Mathematics. 


Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU and International students

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: