About the project
Porous materials are widely used to perform a range of functions such as lightweight load bearing, impact protection, energy absorption and thermal or acoustic insulation. They are found in diverse applications including aerospace and transport structures, protective panelling, cargo packaging, and insulation.
The properties of porous materials are dependent on the material from which they are made and are also highly dependent upon the detailed geometry of the porous architecture. Foams with random architectures can be produced by chemical or physical blowing, or by incorporating hollow fillers to produce syntactic foams. More controlled and ordered architectures can be produced using additive manufacturing (AM) techniques to control the locations where material is deposited.
The complexity of these porous architectures makes identification and prediction of properties difficult – the random architecture of foams can cause uncertainty in properties and aging mechanisms, and more controlled architectures from AM are still prone to defects.
X-ray computed tomography (XCT) is a powerful tool that enables volumetric imaging and can therefore be used to identify the architecture of porous materials. Used in conjunction with modelling, volumetric imaging from XCT can enable predictions of functionally relevant material properties.
High resolution XCT imaging can produce digital models of porous geometries that can be analysed numerically (i.e. finite element analysis) to predict properties and behaviour. However, these high fidelity images and predictions are time consuming, expensive, and sometimes not possible for high-density materials and/or large parts (both of which can lead to high X-ray attenuation and poor contrast).
This project aims to utilise XCT imaging for characterisation of porous architectures, to develop analysis methods that predict material properties and behaviour (such as mechanical, thermal, and acoustic), and to validate these methods experimentally. The goal will be to enable these predictions using low resolution XCT images that can be obtained rapidly for larger parts or denser materials. It will make use of facilities and expertise in additive manufacturing (AM), mechanical testing, characterisation and the µ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre at the University of Southampton.
The work will be conducted in close collaboration with a UK government defence organisation as a partner and sponsor of the project. The candidate will have the opportunity to support and assess materials being developed for use in state-of-the-art defence systems where a broad dynamic range of environments will be encountered. There will be opportunities for placement within the sponsor organisation and potential for future employment.