The Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science is at the heart of composites research regionally, nationally and internationally. A number of strategic partnerships have been set up with industry and government funding agencies to develop and exploit this research. ACCIS also links to centres of excellence across the University of Bristol in specific areas.
Airbus sponsors a range of research work within ACCIS. Recent successful major projects include the joint leadership of the Efficient Lifecycle for Resin Infused Primary Structures (ELRIPS) project and Scaling Effects in Notched Composites (SINCS). Both were run under the auspices of the Defence Aerospace Research Partnership (DARP) on Analysis and Design of Aerospace Composite Structures of which the University of Bristol was a founding member. Another focus for collaboration is a joint venture with the University of Bath – the Airbus, Bristol, Bath STrategic Research Alliance in Composites Technology (ABBSTRACT), with eight joint PhD studentships supported by Airbus. These projects embrace a wide spectrum of activities, including morphing wings, aeroelastic tailoring, self-healing composite materials and wing optimization methods. Since April 2010, ABBSTRACT2 has extended this collaboration, with additional EPSRC and GKN funding, to exploit variable angle tow (VAT) technology. Airbus has also recently provided financial support for two other ACCIS PhD students: Desislava Bacheva, who is studying the application of unconventional material and structural concepts to future wing concepts, based within the ACCIS Doctoral Training Centre and Matthew O'Donnell, who is studying non-symmetric laminated composites.
The Composites UTC research activity links into a worldwide university network providing advanced technology to Rolls-Royce. As the use of composites in aerospace components and power systems increases, so a better understanding of physical behaviour and more advanced design and manufacturing methods is required. The research aims to provide a validated analysis capability for the mechanical response of composites that can be used in the design of these components. The Composites UTC comprises a core team of researchers and support staff linked to other initiatives such as the Bristol-Bath Collaboration on Composites.
The University of Bristol has an established partnership with Vestas Wind Systems, a world-leading provider of wind power and services, to develop composites technology for future products. ACCIS is named as part of the Vestas Innovation Network, a worldwide network of research partnerships, which also includes partners in the US, Singapore, China and Denmark. The Bristol-based partnership, which was announced in July 2009, acts as a focus for composites research activities, liaising closely with Vestas research capabilities across the globe, but particularly at their Blade Research Centre on the Isle of Wight. Research is focussed on three areas: manufacturing of blades, smart materials and lightweight structures. The academic team is headed by Professor Paul Weaver and the research team consists of academic staff, post-doctoral researchers and PhD students based in ACCIS.
The National Composites Centre was opened in 2011 by the University of Bristol and the South West Regional Development Agency in partnership with industry, following the successful bid for funding of £12 million from central Government, and £4 million from SWRDA. The NCC strives to be an independent, open-access national centre that delivers world-class innovation in the design and rapid manufacture of composites and facilitates their widespread industrial exploitation. The NCC forms an internationally leading hub, linking activities across all sectors of the UK in research, education and training, technology transfer and incubation of new enterprises.
The Interface Analysis Centre in the Science Faculty provides a wide range of specialist techniques for the analysis of interfaces in solid-state materials, including Auger Electron Spectroscopy, Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry, X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, Focused Ion Beam Milling, Scanning Electron Microscopy and Laser Raman Spectroscopy.
The UK Research Centre in Non-Destructive Evaluation links university research with industrial Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) users to create a world-leading centre of excellence in NDE research. It combines innovative science with industrial applicability, with the overarching objectives of achieving excellence in exploitable research, industrial benefit at low cost, and raising the quality of industrial NDE. The EPSRC has committed £8m funding to the Centre, which is a collaboration between the Universities of Bristol, Strathclyde, Nottingham, Warwick, Bath and Imperial College. The Bristol activity focuses on multi-element ultrasonic sensor systems, covering NDE of both composite and metallic materials.
A team from ACCIS and The Composites Centre at Imperial College London have been awarded a £6 million six-year programme grant by EPSRC to address a key limitation of current composites: their inherent brittleness. The aim of the project is to create a new generation of high performance, ductile fibre reinforced polymer composites capable of sustaining large deformations without breaking. The team is led by Professor Michael Wisnom (University of Bristol) and Professor Alexander Bismarck (Imperial College London), and supported by partners including BAE Systems, Dstl, Halliburton, Hexcel, Mouchel, Rolls-Royce and Vestas.
The £10 million EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Composites is led by the University of Nottingham in collaboration with Bristol, Manchester and Cranfield universities, and will investigate major research challenges including ways to make the next generation of composites low-cost, faster to manufacture and more sustainable. The goal is to turn research ideas into new products and processes ready for the marketplace, ensuring the maximum impact to the industries which are investing in the Centre.
The Centre will link to UK technology centres including the National Composites Centre and the Manufacturing Technology Centre. Funding will be provided by EPSRC and industrial sponsors; Rolls-Royce, GKN, Airbus, Bentley, Lotus, Caparo, Luxfer and Vestas.
The Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) in Composites Manufacture represents a new activity integral to the work of the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Composites. The IDC is a collaboration between the University of Bristol (lead University), Cranfield University, the University of Manchester and the University of Nottingham, and aims to provide the UK composites manufacturing industry with elite Research Engineers equipped with the necessary advanced technical and leadership skills required for effective adoption of new knowledge and technologies in composites manufacture.
The IDC will support 30+ selected Engineering Doctorate (EngD) Research Engineers, who will undertake specialist training while completing an industrially focused research project. The IDC's theme area is manufacturing of engineering composites structures, specifically those which comprise continuous high performance fibres held together with a polymeric matrix. The relevant industry areas include aerospace, automotive, marine, wind energy and construction.