Currently, many marine structures and vehicles experience unmonitored progressive damage that can compromise their operation or precipitate complete failure many years in advance of their nominal design life. This is especially the case in relatively corrosive marine environments (near the splash or surface zone). An absence of adequate monitoring technologies (or incorrectly applied measurement protocols) and insufficient materials knowledge that can define the structural health of such structures is impeding confidence in such structures and vehicles. This a) places asset managers in a position where they are unable to accurately ascertain current condition, much less predict future condition. This in turn promotes a culture of costly over-design of structures to mitigate the relatively high risks of failure (e.g., over-thick composite sections to absorb impact energy and de-risk crack propagation to component surface.) This is especially the case for sectors such as marine and aerospace that use polymer composite structures where design methodologies must factor in a large degree of uncertainty about failure modes of relatively novel material systems. (e.g., laminated glass fibre reinforced epoxy and polyester/vinyl ester components).
To properly introduce an in-situ, real-time, data-driven asset management system, it is necessary to develop inspection techniques to a point where there is a high degree of certainty about the present condition of the asset and sufficient data to generate useful residual service life predictions (using advanced materials modelling). To do this, the measurement protocol used must be optimised for the particular system being inspected, and the results output by the protocol must be capable of interpretation on the basis of verified component failure mechanisms and accurate material properties (especially allowing for marine degradation).
This project will directly address the challenge of adapting existing inspection technologies (e.g. ultrasound, acoustic emission) for the challenging service environment of a fibre-reinforced polymer composite structure to measure its residual life. This data will be used not only to manage existing assets but also to improve the design and manufacturing process of future similar assets ensuring longevity and survivability in the marine environment. Not only will new field data and diagnoses improve the quality of maintenance interventions, but they will also enable new composite materials to be custom-manufactured for much better understood conditions of service. This will drive the innovation of new composite materials for this sector in the coming decades.
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.
Tuition fees and stipend are available for Home or EU students. Overseas students are welcome to apply but are expected to secure funding to pay the difference between Overseas and Home tuition fees.