The Universities of Bath, Bristol and Exeter are part of a new £6.9 million project to boost the performance of advanced composite components for future electric aircraft.

The CerTest ‘Certification for Design: Reshaping the Testing Pyramid project is led by the University of Southampton the other three as well as industry partners working over the next five years to develop and test more structurally efficient and lightweight airframes that will be far more fuel efficient.

Testing, simulation and certification currently limit how quickly composite structures can be developed, so the new project aims to change the so-called ‘testing pyramid’.

At Bath, the research team is led by Professor Richard Butler and Dr Andy Rhead in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Dr Karim Anaya-Izquierdo and Professor Rob Scheichl in the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Bath will lead research in the area of multiscale numerical modelling whilst contributing to innovations in structural testing, non-destructive testing and statistical methods.

“The programme brings together experts in engineering, applied mathematics and statistics to address a challenge of crucial importance to future aircraft and other lightweight composite products. This alliance of regional universities and major industrial players is vital for the step change in efficiency and sustainability we need,” said Richard Butler, Professor of Aerospace Composites at the University of Bath and GKN/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair.

“Models which predict micron-scale damage within large aircraft parts and account for variations – both in manufacture and operation – are only possible using high-performance computer codes running over many hundreds of CPUs. The groundwork for these codes has been done by researchers at Bath and Exeter over the last few years,” he added.

The Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Technology Strategy and Roadmaps highlights a clear need for continuing improvement in aircraft efficiency, which will require step changes in performance, such as to enable moving to hybrid-electric powertrains and all-electric aircraft.

These technologies will impact every aspect of the aerospace industry, but will specifically set very challenging targets in terms of the mass of aero structures and new aero-structural forms as the industry transitions to blended wing body aircraft, electric propulsion and other advanced concepts.

Moreover, the project will provide graduate researchers in the region with world-leading competence in testing, modelling and qualification as well as certification of advanced composite aero structures.

Find out more about the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) Technology Strategy and Roadmaps