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Funded PhD Opportunity

The tyre / surface interface in Vehicle Computer-aided Engineering

Subject: Architecture, Built Environment and Planning


This project considers the complex 3d tyre / road interface and aims to make knowledge of this interface, from the perspective of the road surface, available in a format that can be used for Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) virtual vehicle modelling.

All forms of vehicle are now designed using CAE with the first actual built prototype being about 95% of the final target.

The tyre / surface interface is a challenging area and influenced by many variables that have implications for safety, wear and durability for the road surface, the tyre and the vehicle.

Roads are built to have a textured surface at a range of scales ranging from micro roughness of the aggregate particle surface to macro roughness created by combining aggregates of different sizes to form the asphalt surface layer.

The pneumatic tyre is designed with a tread block pattern that compliments the textured road surface. The tyre rubber envelopes the textured surface of the road at these different texture scales creating the complex 3d interface.

The car, tyre and road people have for many years worked independently. Current friction models used in CAE may use data derived from how a tyre interacts with a rolling sand paper surface.

Whilst CAE may compliment virtual design of areas such as aero-dynamics, suspension setups and tyre choice there is little appreciation of the textured road surface in the existing computer models which forms the other part of the tyre / asphalt interface. The existing models do not adequately understand the asphalt used in road surface construction and its different texture scales.

Meetings with representatives from car manufacturers and motor sport have confirmed this lack of understanding and acknowledged the need to improve understanding of this complex 3d interface and include it as part of their CAE virtual modelling design.

This project builds on research at Ulster University into better understanding the performance of asphalt mixtures used to surface roads and racing tracks. This has concentrated on road surface characteristics such as skid resistance, reduced noise generation and improved rolling resistance.

Once a new road is opened to traffic, vehicle tyres will remove the bitumen at the interface exposing the aggregate particles to wear. In the longer-term the road will develop an equilibrium condition with the tyre / surface interface effected over shorter terms by environmental and seasonal factors.

These time effects influencing the tyre / surface interface are not adequately considered in CAE modelling. This tyre / surface interface project will take existing understanding of road surface texture change and make it available in a format that will allow it to interact with models used in CAE virtual testing.

It will involve collaboration with the road industry, vehicle / tyre manufacturing industries, test-tracks, racing circuits and road authorities.

The project will combine material data with predictive modelling. Many of the road surface data techniques have already been developed. The challenge with this project will be making best use of this existing knowledge as inputs into models used in CAE Virtual Testing.

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)
  • Clearly defined research proposal detailing background, research questions, aims and methodology


    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 18 February 2019

Interview Date
13 March to 21 March 2019


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Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses

Contact supervisor

Dr David Woodward

Other supervisors

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