Performance and inspection of mechanical structures and systems

Development, analysis, monitoring and optimisation of mechanical structures and systems. This research area includes both the experimental and the modelling techniques that underpin understanding of the performance of materials and mechanical structures, the development of non-destructive evaluation techniques, tribology and surface engineering, dynamics and transmission. It also encompasses relevant elements of acoustics research.

This multidisciplinary research area is critical to the sustained health of the UK's fundamental core engineering industry sectors. (Evidence source 1,2)

To support this area within the period of this Delivery Plan, we will:

  • Work with the Research Centre for Non-Destructive Evaluation to promote engagement with relevant groups and industrial stakeholders across the UK
  • Maximise the potential of the cohort of early-career and established-career fellows to set solid foundations for the future health of the area
  • Strengthen ties with mathematics, particularly in the field of uncertainty quantification and predictive modelling 
  • Reduce fragmentation in the research community by supporting technological applications in a co-ordinated way
  • Seek opportunities for the PIMSS community to demonstrate alignment to EPSRC Outcomes

This area contributes strongly to national strategic needs, including the automotive, aerospace, healthcare, manufacturing and defence sectors (Evidence source 1-6). Research is also strongly linked to the energy sector, through oil and gas, wind turbines and nuclear power (Evidence source 3). Specifically, this area is influenced by changes to the worldwide nuclear industry that are expected to grow in the coming decades, particularly around research in non-destructive assessment for decommissioning of structures and waste management (Evidence source 7).

The PIMSS community has potential to impact the development of advanced materials (Evidence source 3). The area is strongly linked to the Materials Engineering - Composites, Ceramics, and Metals and Alloys research areas as all of these contribute to development and evaluation of new and existing technologies within materials engineering (Evidence source 3). The formation of the Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials and critical innovation drivers such as the High Value Manufacturing Catapult will have a strong influence on the landscape and appropriate alignment/integration will be important. There are also strong links to other priority areas (e.g. Robotics) (Evidence source 3,8).

The UK has internationally leading centres of critical mass and institutions in acoustics, dynamics, structural engineering, tribology and non-destructive testing. Research in non-destructive evaluation and testing (NDET) represents a significant part of the research area and the UK is world-leading in non-destructive testing with a healthy supply chain (Evidence source 4,8). Strong links to manufacturing extend to large EPSRC investments that focus on developing innovative manufacturing methods and demand improved precision and machine performance. Structural integrity and systems performance are critical in the design of any engineering product, creating strong links to different sectors, whilst automated non-destructive evaluation provides defect-free manufacturing (Evidence source 3,8). While the portfolio is strongly defined by high-quality research in NDET and tribology, evidence suggests that uncertainty quantification and predictive modelling are under-represented in the UK (Evidence source 3,4,5).

EPSRC intervention in fellowships, stimulated by recommendations from the 2011 Review of Mechanical Engineering, has led to an increased number of fellows in this area, with a good distribution of early-career and established-career stages. Two Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) - in Integrated Tribology and Quantitative Non-Destructive Evaluation - and a number of others relevant to this area ensure the future supply of trained researchers.

The PIMSS community is capital-intensive and has high demand for use of High Performance Computing facilities (HPC).

This research area will contribute to all Outcomes and especially to Productive, Resilient and Healthy Nation. Contributions to some Connected Nation Ambitions, over a longer timeframe.

Particular Ambitions of relevance include:

P2: Ensure affordable solutions for national needs

PIMSS has a critical role, with contributions to maximising energy efficiency, raising the quality of engineering materials and assuring the safety of engineering systems.

R2: Ensure a reliable infrastructure which underpins the UK economy

PIMSS has a core role to play through the development of technology for structural health monitoring and for predicting premature failure of components and systems, preventing catastrophic failure.

R4: Manage resources efficiently and sustainably

PIMSS is expected to be a key discipline, providing technology that enables better-informed decision-making on decommissioning or extending the life of existing infrastructure.

  1. EPSRC, Review of Mechanical Engineering 2011 (PDF), (2011).
  2. Technopolis (for the Royal Academy of Engineering and EPSRC), Engineering for a Successful Nation (PDF), (2015).
  3. Lloyds Register Foundation, Review of Structural Integrity and Systems Performance, (2015).
  4. Knowledge Transfer Network, A Landscape for the Future of NDT in the UK Economy, (2014).
  5. Surface Engineering and Advanced Coatings Special Interest Group, Time for Strategic Change: UK Surface Engineering and Advanced Coatings Industry (PDF), (2014).
  6. Aerospace Technology Institute, Aerospace Strategy, (2016).
  7. Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, UK Nuclear Innovation and Research Programme Recommendations (PDF), (2016).
  8. Non-Destructive Evaluation Research Association (NDEvR), community expert workshops, seminars and reviews, and expert community cross-sector industrial call for research (2016).

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)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in performance and inspection of mechanical structures and systems (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Zoe Brown
Job title: Portfolio Manager
Department: Engineering
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444051