Designing advanced structures through novel, lightweight materials such as metals, composites and biomaterials, is one of the key enabling technologies to achieve national targets for CO2 reduction. 

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In reducing inherent structural weight, it is essential not to compromise safety, as structural integrity and designing for crashworthiness become key design drivers and represents a significant proportion of product development costs.

Key challenges include understanding how a structure, or material performs over its life cycle when subject to a range of static and dynamic (high strain rate) loading, including crash, ballistic impact, bird strike or explosion.

This requires expertise in numerical simulation, rate dependent material behaviour (include damage and failure) and testing. We have a strong, applied understanding and proven track record in the following areas:

  • Component/sub structure/full-scale testing and simulation
  • Coupon level material characterisation and simulation
  • Finite Element Analysis and Meshless Methods
  • Material model development (including plasticity/damage)
  • Modelling structures under extreme loading
  • Numerical methods development and application
  • Structural Analysis and optimisation.

Sustainability and low carbon footprint are some of the other driving forces leading to light-weighting technologies. We are actively involved in developing bio-sourced composite technologies for the next generation light weight structural components.

About our research

Our greatest strength is the ability to combine the academic rigour and long-term perspective of a university with the commercial and business focus of industry.

Our excellence in strategic and applied research has enabled us to make significant contributions to the world around us for over 60 years. We address real life challenges and focus on research that is of strategic and practical importance.

We provide a supportive research community for students and our academic work is regularly published in journal article, book or thesis form.

Our facilities

Material Testing

Capability to perform coupon level, component and full-scale vehicle testing at quasi static, in addition to dynamic (high strain rate) characterisation, using Hopkinson Bar, Taylor Cylinder and Plate impact tests.

Key facilities include:
• Compression Hopkinson Bars
• Digital Image Correlation for non-contact strain measurement
• Full Scale Torsional Testing Rig (chassis testing)
• One stage gas gun (low velocity)
• Range of Instron Test Machines and environmental chamber to undertake quasi-static, fatigue and low/high temperature testing
• Scanning equipment (surface imperfections, voids in composites, etc).

Numerical Methods Development

Provide research and consultancy in a range of commercial codes, in addition to development of in-house meshless code that is coupled with DYNA3D, which enables new material models/code improvements to be directly implemented.

Key capabilities include:
• Development and implementation of new elements and contact algorithms. LLNL-DYNA3D is the prime development platform
• Development of improved or new constitutive and damage models for transient and static analysis
• Implementation of models in computer codes, including as user material models in commercial codes
• Methods development for mesh free continuum mechanics methods including the Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) method
• Thermodynamically consistent damage and failure models for metals and composites.

Working with us

We work with industry to investigate complex, engineering problems, either through collaborative research projects, or through consultation. All research/consultancy work undertaken is subject to Non-Disclosure Agreements in place, in order to protect the intellectual property (IP) of the company involved.


• Crashworthiness
• Design and optimisation
• Material and structural response to impact
• Material modelling and characterisation
• Structural analysis and testing.

• Health and Safety regulations for nano-composites
• Material modelling and characterisation
• Mathematical modelling for polymer synthesis
• Multi-disciplinary optimisation
• Novel structural concepts
• Numerical methods development
• Structural health monitoring
• Vibration and NVH performance of bio-sourced composites.

With the testing capabilities available in-house, we can provide characterisation of materials to support product development, or to improve numerical prediction through simulation and subsequent optimisation.

From a numerical point of view, we have access to a range of commercial codes, which are available to businesses through research projects. This ensures that we maintain compatibility and consistency in model development, analyses and results.
In addition, due to our strong activity in numerical methods development and access to source code of DYNA3D, we have developed our own meshless code for large deformation problems, including fluid-structure interactions. This enables us to directly make changes to the code, or implement new material models to be able to support research/consultancy for next generation lightweight materials and is a significant strength and desirable from an industry point of view.

Industries/clients can sponsor or get involved with thesis projects for the MSc courses or PhD students. Interested industries can also collaborate with us on Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) or EU FP7/Horizon 2020 calls.