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Funded PhD Opportunity

Development of multi-scale and multi-physics computational framework for the assessment of long-term performance of 3D-textile composites structures

Subject: Engineering


The purpose of this project is to develop a finite element software for the simulation of long-term structural performance of 3D-textile composites. These composites provide weaving of near-net-shape, high through-thickness mechanical properties and improved impact and delamination resistance. During their service lives, these composites are exposed to harsh environmental conditions in addition to mechanical loading leading to degradation in their mechanical properties and reduced structural performance. The macro or structural level properties of these materials are rooted in their underlying heterogeneous micro-structures, consisting of 3D arrangements of yarns in a polymer matrix. Therefore, a fully coupled multi-scale and multi-physics modelling provides an accurate computational framework for the simulation of their long-term performance.

A realistic and detailed micro-level geometry modelling of the 3D-textile composites is very challenging. Therefore, a fully automated and robust framework will be developed for the micro-level geometry modelling. This model will be used subsequently in a multi-scale finite element analysis, where mechanical properties required for the macro/structural-level simulation will be derived directly from the mechanics of this micro-level geometry. Two dominant damage mechanisms, i.e. matrix elasto-plasticity and fiber-matrix decohesion will next be incorporated in the model. The already developed multi-scale computational framework will be extended to incorporate multi-physics effects, i.e. hygro-thermal ageing in this case. Both diffusion and capillary suction will be used to model the moisture transport, while conduction will be used for the heat transfer simulation. A hygro-thermal ageing model, representing the degradation of mechanical properties over time for a given exposure temperature and moisture concentration will be developed next.

The final stage of the PhD project will be to combine all of the above-mentioned models into a single fully coupled multi-scale and multi-physics computational framework. The developed framework will be implemented in MOFEM (Mesh Oriented Finite Element Method), an open-source C++ based finite element software, developed and maintained at the University of Ulster and University of Glasgow. State of the art computational procedures including high-performance computing and adaptive analysis will be used to enhance the computational efficiency of the developed finite element software. Finally, the developed code will be used to solve problems from a variety of fields including aerospace, marine, automotive, construction and wind energy.

The proposed project requires very limited resources and will make use of only open-source and freely available tools. These developments are not available in commercial finite element software packages but are vital for design and analysis real-world composite structures. The generalised implementation will allow to use the software for other composites consisting of unidirectional and 2D-textile reinforcement. The PhD student will be benefited directly from the expertise of Engineering Composites Research Centre at the University of Ulster and MOFEM development team at the University of Glasgow.

Essential criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £14,777 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £ 14,777 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 19 February 2018

Interview Date
Mid March 2018

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