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QUB- Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering PhD Project


Development of carbon and graphene fibres based high

performance composites for aerospace applications

Advanced Composites Laboratory

Project Description:

There has always been a focus on developing new and effective aerospace materials to enhance the strength
and stiffness properties and consequently improve the fuel and operating efficiencies of aircraft.

Carbon fibres have a variety of applications in the aircraft industry. However, due to their poor electrical
conductivity, they have been prone to significant lightning damage. As a result, many researchers as well as
aerospace industries have turned to the use of copper and aluminium fibres, which conduct more electricity. This
results in several disadvantages in the component such as the addition of significant weight and increased cost.

Graphene, the much-publicised wonder material, which is a two-dimensional carbon allotrope (Fig. 1), is
continuously finding potential applications, electric/photonics circuits, solar cells, and various medical,
chemical and industrial processes.

Reinforcements are the backbone of the manufactured

composites. A macro reinforcement such as carbon fibre is
immensely stiff and strong with respect to a resin, and
hence in a carbon fibre-reinforced composite, the properties
are dominated by the carbon fibre. The addition of
functionalised graphene to neat resin will increase the
stiffness significantly, but the effect of this in a composite at
Figure 1: Graphene structure the macro level is yet to be researched. The compression
Courtesy of Chris Ewels (
strength, increase in impact resistance, effect on fracture
toughness and damage resistance need to be investigated.
Adding graphene to carbon fibres, could considerably increase their strength, while retaining their flexibility.
Another factor is that the addition of graphene to the material should mitigate water absorption. Thus, graphene
works as a physical barrier, helping in slowing down the diffusion process of water into the material. Due to its
superior electrical conductivity, Graphene could be used as a top layer in composites to prevent electrical
damage resulting from lightning strikes.

The aim of this research project is to develop composites made of graphene and carbon fibres as
reinforcements within the lead supervisors research group. The project will involve sophisticated experiments
developed for the aerospace industry. This will allow for the design of high strength based, increased fuel
efficient composites for aerospace applications.
Advanced Composites Research Group

Key Skills Required for the post:

Candidate should demonstrate knowledge/experience/skills in following areas:
1. Solid and structural mechanics
2. Fibre reinforced composites and mechanics of composites materials
3. Fracture and/or damage mechanics
4. Processing methods, modelling and characterization techniques
Key Transferable Skills that will be developed during the PhD:
These will include an ability to effectively communicate research outcomes to academic peers and industry,
independent analytical thinking and problem solving, time management and leadership.
First/Lead Supervisor and their Dr Mukul Shukla
contact details

Second Supervisor and their Prof Brian G. Falzon FRAeS

contact details: Royal Academy of Engineering Bombardier Chair in Aerospace
Top up available for this The studentship covers the full university fees and includes an income of up
project? to 18,500 per annum (comprising a 14,000 stipend, a potential 3,000
top-up and the opportunity to undertake teaching and demonstration duties
to earn a further 1,500 per annum). The top-up is available, dependent on
the recommendation of the interview panel [UK residents only]
Queens University Belfast is a diverse and international institution which is strongly committed to
equality and diversity, and to selection on merit. Currently women are under-represented in research
positions in the School and accordingly applications from women are particularly welcome.