Materials engineering - composites
Understanding, modelling and processing of composites with respect to the properties and material behaviour and development of novel materials.
This is a world-leading research area characterised by outstanding work linking fundamental engineering through to the Catapults and industry. We will support world-class expertise that underpins sustainable growth aligned to key sectors such as automotive, aerospace, defence, rail, construction, marine, oil and gas, and energy (e.g. composites for high-performance vehicles, and the use of composites in turbine blades for renewable energy). This will require the community to establish and nurture interdisciplinary links addressing the microstructure/processing/performance triangle.
Research opportunities will focus on reducing material demand through resource efficiency and reducing lead times to product development through greater understanding of the microstructure/processing/performance triangle, highlighted within EPSRC's Productive and Resilient Nation Outcomes. The community should seek to establish and nurture links with the manufacturing sector and researchers there. This includes linking to the Manufacturing Technologies research area and focusing on the circular economy, reducing energy demand for material production, high-throughput manufacture, and challenges surrounding reuse/recycling of composites.
There is a significant opportunity to bring together advances in modelling and experimentation to increase the rate of discovery and development of new materials. Over the current Delivery Plan, the community should work towards understanding these challenges and establishing solutions.
Future design solutions need to be multi-material, so research should address the challenges of joining technologies, as well as hybrid materials. Developing capability in life-cycle assessment, demonstrating environmental benefits, remains strategically important and sustainability challenges surrounding recycling and end-of-life issues should be addressed. The community should work to develop standards and assurance regimes that enable take-up of composites in new sectors. The community should seek out research opportunities in the energy, electronics and healthcare sectors as the use of composites becomes more important (e.g. multifunctional composite materials for energy storage, and realistic artificial limbs).
Over the course of the current Delivery Plan, we aim to:
- Support the community to connect UK research, through a cross-disciplinary approach, to research in response to the Advanced Materials Strategy, (Evidence source 1) and facilitate links with the Sir Henry Royce Institute. A key challenge is to sustain and develop interdisciplinary relationships, enhancing a portfolio that addresses novel research at the interface between engineering, physical sciences and mathematical sciences
- Encourage the community to undertake research that links through to other materials-relevant research areas (e.g. Performance and Inspection of Mechanical Structures and Systems, Manufacturing Technologies, Continuum Mechanics, Numerical Analysis, Functional Ceramics and Inorganics, Materials for Energy Applications, Nuclear Fission, Energy Storage, Resource Efficiency, Materials Engineering - Metals and Alloys, and Materials Engineering - Ceramics)
- Work alongside key stakeholders to provide the next generation of skilled researchers for both the academic and the industrial sector in the UK, from PhD to early-career level. It is essential that this talent is nurtured and retained in later career stages, ensuring that academic expertise is preserved following the completion of studentships
Research funding in this area, as a percentage of the entire EPSRC portfolio, maintained its value over the last Delivery Plan, although the shape of the portfolio has changed. There has been a three-fold increase in the value of fellowship investment, with seven fellows now supported. This research area is characterised by centres of critical mass throughout the UK which are internationally leading, (Evidence source 1,2) and benefits from world-class training as a result of the 2013 Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) call and an increase in universities' Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) allocations.
The formation of the Sir Henry Royce Institute and critical innovation drivers such as the High Value Manufacturing Catapult will have a strong influence on the research landscape, so strategic alignment and integration across the landscape will be important. We recognise this area's contribution to national strategic needs, including industrial strategies for the aerospace, automotive, defence, transport, construction and energy sectors. (Evidence source 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) This area has potential to be disruptive and transformative in these sectors and is critical to the sustained health of advanced materials research in the UK. (Evidence source 10)
EPSRC and government interventions (e.g. Diamond Light Source, the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, SuperSTEM, the National Nuclear User Facility and the National Nuclear Lab) have significantly increased access to world-class facilities across the UK. Future investments (e.g. the Sir Henry Royce Institute) will further increase this.
Multidisciplinary research is substantial in this area, enabling an array of associated challenges to be addressed. There are strong connections to other research areas (see 'Strategic Focus' above) and there remains a need to sustain and improve these links.
This area will be instrumental in the delivery of many Ambitions, in particular the following Ambitions under the Productive Nation Outcome:
P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies
This will be assisted by taking a cross-disciplinary approach to advanced materials research, along with developing a greater understanding of the microstructure/processing/performance triangle.
P5: Transform to a sustainable society, with a focus on the circular economy
This will be assisted by focusing on reducing material demand through resource efficiency and linking to Manufacturing Technologies to address the challenges of recycling/reuse of composites, scale-up and high-throughput manufacture, joining technologies for multi-materials systems, life-cycle analysis and sustainable approaches to manufacturing.
- AMLC, Vision Papers 2016: Advanced Structural Materials; Materials for Demanding Environments, Design of Materials and Processes, (2016).
- Composites Leadership Forum (CLF), The 2016 UK Composites Strategy (PDF), (2016).
- Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), The UK Composites Strategy (PDF), (2009).
- CLF, UK Composites 2013 (PDF), (2013).
- Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Building Momentum for UK Aerospace (PDF), (2015).
- ATI, Technology Strategy and Portfolio Update 2016, (2016).
- Automotive Council UK, Driving Success: A Strategy for Growth and Sustainability in the UK (PDF), (2013).
- CLF, Delivering UK Growth through the Multi-Sector Application of Composites (PDF), (2014).
- Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), Composites: Consolidating the UK’s Competitiveness, (2014).
- EPSRC, International Perceptions of the UK Materials Research Base (PDF), (2008).
Research area connections
This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.
Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
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EPSRC support by research area in Materials engineering - composites (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.