University of Southampton

Multi-scale Computed Tomography of Aerospace Composites

Anna Scott1

1μ-VIS X-ray Imaging Centre, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton


High performance composite materials (e.g. carbon fibres embedded in epoxy) are being used in an increasing number of industries due to their high stiffness and strength-to-weight ratios. Composites are being used instead of metallic alloys to improve structural performance, for example in airframes.

Role of Computed Tomography

The multi-scale capabilities of the micro-focus CT at μ-VIS in combination with Synchrotron CT, enables three-dimensional data of the internal material structure to be obtained at the relevant length scales; from the whole structural level in the meter range, down to the micro-structural level, imaging the individual fibres in the composite (μm-range). In situ loading rigs enable damage mechanisms within the material to be detected and segmented for analysis, showing the progression of damage to failure.

Multi-scale computed tomography of aerospace-grade material

Segmented damage mechanisms in a loaded composite laminate (composite has been rendered partially transparent)

1 would like to acknowledge G. Johnson and L. Helfen from beamline ID19 at ESRF for help with the experimentation, Airbus for supplying the materials and EPSRC for funding