A PhD position sponsored by Airbus in numerical modelling of physical processes, focusing on solving the challenge in landing gear friction by the use of atomic simulation studies is available. Advanced physics and material modelling concepts will be used as an instrument for the modelling. The candidate will have exposure to work with high performance computing (HPC) clusters to write and design their own programming interface to model and assimilate the nature of friction existing at the interface of landing gear during the landing of an aircraft system. The project also provides a rich opportunity to interact with shop floor engineers and management of Airbus, as well as occasional secondment to their site premises in Bristol, visiting International countries to present the research results via International Conferences and to work across various other departments by leveraging advantage of Cranfield Doctoral Training theme. Read more Read less

Carbon-Carbon composites have been deployed in friction braking applications in both Aerospace and Automotive sectors. Friction performance is highly dependent on component design in conjunction with material properties and the control of industrial process parameters. The process fingerprint couple together with material characteristics makes it difficult to predict the durability of braking, its performance and lifetime. Material development and manufacturing process control are both important for achieving enhanced and more consistent brake performance.

The performance of materials in friction applications has until now typically been verified by empirical experimental tests. This PhD project takes a different approach compared to earlier investigations as atomic modelling is proposed to complement previous experimental data and enhance existing knowledge on brake wear. Numerical simulations will be performed that captures the physiochemical micro/nano scale processes, which will then be utilised when modelling the brake wear for developing a robust understanding by correlating it to the previous experimental data. In this way, the influence of the smaller scale physics on the wear characteristics can be elucidated. This may lead to proposed changes in material selection and/or manufacturing processes for enhancement of brake performance and durability. Due to the multiscale nature of the physical processes such as oxidation, a dual approach to the modelling is proposed, where the micro/nano scale processes are captured using molecular dynamics simulations, while macroscale features are captured via a finite-element approach. A strong coupling between the two approaches will be ensured. Beside a multi-physics problem, another challenge from a numerical modelling point of view is the multiscale nature; both physico-chemical action and mechanical interaction are important for the friction properties. In addition, the wear is due to the abrasion and fatigue.

Cranfield University excels in strategic and applied research. In the latest 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), 81% of our research was considered ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in its quality. We are in the top 50 in the world for Engineering - Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing (QS world rankings 2018). The only other UK institutions in the top 50 are Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London and Manchester. Cranfield is a ‘Top 5’ research institute, based on commercial income. We are second only to Imperial College London, in terms of research power in REF 2014. Our world class academics, with proven research records, are in constant touch with industry through research, consultancy and product development. 3,800 students from over 100 countries study either full- or part-time, or in parallel with their career. Airbus is a global company with roots in Europe, which includes in its portfolio a modern and comprehensive family of civil airliners. Airbus has a well-established track record in industrial research and technology development in the aerospace sector. Technological progress through research and innovation allows the company to enjoy significant benefits such as reduced cost and time of design cycles, while contributing to civil aviation’s commitments to more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly operations.

Modelling of material, process and design attributes as a means to simulate performance, hence reducing dependency on physical testing, is not widely developed. Such modelling could contribute to the design of material systems, optimization of components and industrial process design, with the intent of reducing cost and leadtime for product development in addition to improving end product performance in the target vehicles. This research seeks to develop and verify multi-physics modelling techniques to enable end-to-end performance based design of friction systems.

You will belong to a new Airbus Landing Systems Engineering Centre (LASEC) at Cranfield University, as well as the separate Centre for Structures Assembly and Intelligent Automation within The School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing. LASEC will be officially launched in March 2020, so you will be part of the “funding team”. Furthermore, working within LASEC will enable frequent contact with Airbus Engineers with valuable access to engineering and physical understanding of the processes in the application area. Funding for conference travel exists. Relocation to Airbus in Filton, Bristol, for a minimum of three months during the 4-year PhD project will be an opportunity for further immersion into the company. 

Apart from the connections to the funder of the project, Airbus, other companies such as Meggitt, will be interested in your work. Multi-physics modelling techniques of this nature could be developed and applied to similar empirically verified systems. It will great enhance the chances of employability in other sectors such as automotive where Rolls Royce has been strategically also working with Cranfield for past many years.

At a glance

  • Application deadline10 Sep 2019
  • Award type(s)PhD
  • Start date30 Sep 2019
  • Duration of award3 years
  • EligibilityUK, EU
  • Reference numberSATM113

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a first class UK honours degree or equivalent in an area of Physics, Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, Chemistry with a command on materials modelling and strong passion to learn and implement things. This project would suit a person with a broad interest in numerical modelling of physical processes. In addition, a keen interest in numerical methods and high performance computing is necessary, as a great deal of time will be spent on performing molecular dynamics simulations. Evaluation of statistical data and handling of large amount of data with visualization is something that should be of interest for the candidate.


Due to the nature of the funding, it is expected that the successful applicant will be a UK national or EU national who has resided in the UK for three years prior to the start date of the studentship. Due to funding restrictions all EU nationals are eligible to receive a fees-only award if they do not have “settled status” in the UK.

About the sponsor

Sponsored by EPSRC and Airbus, this studentship will provide a bursary of up to £60,036 (tax free) plus fees* for four years and is open to UK/EU students only.

Cranfield Doctoral Network

Research students at Cranfield benefit from being part of a dynamic, focused and professional study environment and all become valued members of the Cranfield Doctoral Network. This network brings together both research students and staff, providing a platform for our researchers to share ideas and collaborate in a multi-disciplinary environment. It aims to encourage an effective and vibrant research culture, founded upon the diversity of activities and knowledge. A tailored programme of seminars and events, alongside our Doctoral Researchers Core Development programme (transferable skills training), provide those studying a research degree with a wealth of social and networking opportunities.

How to apply

For further information please contact:      
Name: Martin Skote
Email: M.Skote@cranfield.ac.uk
(0) 1234 750111 Ext: 8225

If you are eligible to apply for this research studentship, please complete the online application form.