Grant to help engineering research project

A collaborative research team including Swansea University has been awarded a grant of more than £4 million to create new nonlinear dynamic design tools for engineering structures.

The team led by the University of Bristol, in collaboration with the Universities of Swansea, Cambridge, Sheffield and Southampton have been awarded a £4.2 million programme grant by the EPSRC. The aim of the project is to create a step change in the understanding and exploitation of nonlinearity in structural dynamic systems to engineer a new generation of nonlinear dynamic design tools.

The performance of engineering structures is controlled by how well they behave in their working environment. In many cases, such as wind or wave power generation, medical robotics, aerospace and large civil structures, nonlinear dynamic effects have a big influence on the operational performance. However, understanding and exploiting nonlinear effects in structural dynamics presents serious difficulties and is acting as a bottleneck in the design progress of many structures.

Professor Mike Friswell of Swansea University’s College of Engineering, said “This grant has given the project a major boost and the team is looking ahead to develop novel modelling and control techniques that can be used directly in the design processes for structural systems and which the group will demonstrate on a series of industry based experimental demonstrators. These design tools will enable a transformation in the performance of engineering structural systems which are under increasing demands from technological, economic and environmental pressures.”

The research team will be led by David Wagg, Professor of Structural Dynamics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bristol, and supported by partners including Stirling Dynamics, EDF Energy, Airbus UK, GL Garrad Hassan, Rolls-Royce, Romax Technology, AgustaWestland, ESI Group.

Professor David Wagg said, “The complexity of modern designs has outstripped our ability to fully understand their dynamic behaviour. Even with the benefit of high power computing, which has enabled engineers to carry out detailed simulations, interpreting results from these simulations is a fundamental bottleneck, and it would seem that our ability to match experimental results is not improving, due primarily to the combination of random and uncertain effects and the failure of the linear superposition approach.

“As a result a new type of structural dynamics, which fully embraces nonlinearity, is urgently needed to enable the most efficient design and manufacture of the next generation of engineering structures.

“Nonlinearity occurs quite naturally in many applications, but despite this it has traditionally been avoided in the design of engineering systems. However, the capability of a design for all engineering structures is being pushed in response to the urgent need in society to find technological solutions for global issues such as climate change. As a result understanding and controlling nonlinearity is becoming increasingly important in many engineering applications. A current topical example is the dynamics of large wind turbines. Understanding nonlinearity is crucial for ensuring that we have safe, reliable and efficient structures.”

The research programme team are: Professor David Wagg, Professor Mike Friswell (University of Swansea), Professor Alan Champneys, Professor Jonathan Cooper (University of Bristol), Professor Robin Langley (University of Cambridge), Professor Keith Worden (University of Sheffield), and Professor Steve Elliott (University of Southampton).