PhD Studentship - Flaw-tolerant cellular materials for lightweight structural design

Department of Mechanical Engineering

Current efforts in the automotive, aerospace and structural industries are focused on reducing the overall weight of vehicles and structures, in order to make more efficient use of primary resources and reduce carbon emissions. Within these efforts, the design, manufacturing and use of novel lightweight materials has received an increased importance and urgency. An important class is that of cellular materials e.g. metallic or polymer foams, honeycombs, and microlattices. They offer a significant advantage in structural design: the capability to provide high strength and stiffness for their low density (typically less than 10% of the density of the base material).

These materials can be manufactured as ordered trusses, such as those often seen at bigger scales in bridges, or as materials with a less ordered structure, e.g. sponges, foams etc. Manufacturing ordered microlattices is typically costly, thus non-homogeneous materials are more common for industrial applications. However their drawback is the presence of geometrical flaws, e.g. voids, inclusions, and variations in the structure, which can limit the expected mechanical behaviour. Increasing the tolerance of mechanical properties (toughness and strength) to these type of flaws is of practical importance both in the mechanical design and manufacturing sectors.

This focus of this project will be to develop advanced lattice materials with low sensitivity to geometrical imperfections through a combination of topological design, experimental testing of mechanical properties, theoretical modelling of damage mechanisms, and materials design. On the experimental side, it will involve the use of additive manufacturing techniques to fabricate lattice structures with controlled flaws, in combination with mechanical testing and material characterisation. Theoretical modelling and numerical simulations (finite element method) will be used to link the geometric features of the lattice structure with the mechanisms of material fracture, establishing the link between microstructure and observed macroscopic behaviour. The aim is to obtain an understanding of the interaction of damage mechanisms along multiple length scales, and develop guides for fracture-resistance designs with this class of materials.

Person specification: Applicants must have a UK-equivalent first degree in mechanical/materials engineering or solid mechanics or structural engineering. Experience with ABAQUS (finite-element software) is a significant advantage. Only students with a UK-equivalent First Class Honours degree, or are expecting to receive one, and/or a MSc degree with distinction will be considered.

Closing Date and Start Date: Position is open until filled with start date by mutual agreement.

Value of award: Full tuition fees and stipend of up to £16,057 per annum (for 3 years). Funding is provided either through an EPSRC DTA or an industry-funded scholarship.

Eligibility: Funding requirements dictate ONLY UK and EU passport holders need apply. Please DO NOT enquire about this project if you are ineligible.

Application Procedure: See for information. A CV, full transcript of results (listing all subjects taken and their corresponding grades/marks) and a cover letter stating how the project meets your research interests must be included.

Contacts: Prospective candidates are strongly encouraged to email both Dr PJ Tan ( and Dr Eral Bele ( for an informal discussion before applying. Please attach your CV and full transcript of exam results.

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University College London (UCL)



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