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Advanced Composites

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Run by Faculty of Engineering
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time; part-time option available
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Not less than 50 per cent full-time and requires daytime (9 am to 6 pm), weekday (Monday to Friday) attendance.
Start date September 2020

Programme overview

Composite materials are replacing traditional ones at an unprecedented rate due to the global demand for lightweight structures (eg in aircraft and automotive industries). The growth in the use of composite materials is expected to be rapid, in the region of 5-10 per cent each year.

The benefits composites offer to functionalise both materials and structures mean they are integral to any design considerations - material cost, fuel efficiency, reduced emissions, improved operational performance and functionality. The composites sector is contributing significantly to industry developments and advanced composites are critical in enabling lighter, smarter structures and cheaper, more abundant energy.

The UK has invested heavily in the science and technology of composite materials, including establishing the National Composites Centre at the University of Bristol. A highly skilled workforce and technical leadership are required to support the industry. This leadership requires a radical and innovative mindset that encompasses engineering as well as the physical sciences.

The development of future composites will require doctoral students with underpinning knowledge of advanced materials science and engineering, and practical experience of the ensuing composites and structures. These highly skilled engineers not only need to understand technical subjects but should also be able to apply acquired knowledge within the context of the modern world.

This CDT produces highly skilled leaders. Core engineering modules lay the foundations and stretch your understanding of core materials, manufacturing and computational analysis, including experimental and theoretical elements of composites engineering and science. An integrated transferable skills training programme is also included, covering communication, career development and translational research skills. Collaborating with industrial partners (eg Rolls-Royce) and world-leading international expertise (eg University of Limerick), produces an exciting integrated programme enabling you to become a leader in this field.

Fees for 2020/21

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2020/21 are as follows:

UK/EU: full-time
Overseas: full-time
Channel Islands/Isle of Man: full-time

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to a five per cent increase in fees each year. Find out more about tuition fees.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2020/21

Enhanced EPSRC studentships covering fees and living costs are available to UK/EU students. 

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Programme structure

The structure of the four-year PhD programme is shown below; please also view the CDT website for more information. Throughout the degree you will have access to world-leading experts and industrial engagement, providing you with the opportunity to learn about real-world challenges and how they are tackled by industry.

Year 1 – Taught/Research Component

  • A range of core and optional taught units, allowing you time to build your knowledge and ignite your curiosity
  • Design, build and test group project, which provides hands-on experience, while our cohort-based training approach encourages knowledge sharing and joint problem solving
  • Individual three-month research project with access to state-of-the-art equipment and facilities
  • Transferable skills training and public engagement activities to support your professional development

Years 2-4 – Research Component

  • PhD research project – we offer a wide choice of cutting-edge PhD projects, from nanomaterials to wind turbine blade design
  • International placement opportunities
  • Transferable skills training and public engagement activities

Please visit our programme catalogue for full details of the structure and unit content for the first year of the Advanced Composites CDT programme.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class degree in a relevant subject (or equivalent qualification).

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile E
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Admissions statement

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Admissions statement

Research groups

All CDT students are based in the Bristol Composites Institute (ACCIS) research group, which is within the Faculty of Engineering and has links to the Faculties of Science and Health Sciences. The vision of ACCIS is to be a world-leading centre for composites research, combining cutting-edge fundamental science with strong industrial links for exploitation and technology transfer. It is a focus for collaboration - internally, nationally and internationally - and led the establishment of the UK's National Composites Centre.


Recent graduates from the programme have gone on to careers in industry (eg aerospace, automotive, civil engineering, engineering consultancy and wind energy sectors) and academia (eg research positions at UK universities).

Staff profiles

Please view the Bristol Composites Institute (ACCIS) research pages for full information about our research outputs

Dr Giuliano Allegri MSc, PhD, (Reader), Fracture & Fatigue, Delamination Suppression, Uncertainty Quantification

Professor Ian Bond BSc, PhD(Bath), (Professor, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering), Development of novel and multifunctional composite materials.

Professor Stephen Eichhorn BSc(Leeds), MSc(Manchester), PhD(Manchester), (CDT Director, Professor), Natural fibres, nanocellulose, nanocomposite materials, stress and strain sensing using spectroscopy, sustainable materials, multifunctional materials (eg energy storage, structural colour)

Dr Ian Farrow BSc(Soton), PhD(CranIT), (Senior Lecturer), Design of composite structures.

Professor Stephen Hallett BSc(Cape Town), DPhil(Oxon), (Professor), Mechanics of composite materials and structures, numerical and experimental aspects of manufacture and failure.

Professor Ian Hamerton BSc(Sur), PhD(Sur), (CDT Co-Director for Research, Professor), High performance polymers and composites, smart materials and structures, multifunctional nano composites, polymer stabilisation and degradation, molecular modelling, flame retardant materials.

Dr Dmitry Ivanov BSc(Perm), PhD(Leuven), (Senior Lecturer), Innovative approaches to composites manufacture and modelling.

Dr Luiz Kawashita BEng, PhD(Lond), (Lecturer), Composite failure mechanisms and numerical modelling.

Dr BC(Eric) Kim BEng, MSc, PhD(KAIST), (Lecturer), Composite product design, automated fibre placement, axiomatic design, computer-aided design, experimental mechanics.

Dr James Kratz BEng(Carleton), MEng(McGill), PhD(McGill), (Lecturer), Thermochemical properties of epoxies, in-process measurement of composites, sustainable manufacturing

Dr Terence Macquart MSc, PhD, (Lecturer), Design and Optimisation of Composite Structures, Aeroelastic Tailoring of Wind Turbine Blades and numerical modelling.

Dr Matthew O'Donnell BSc, MSc, PhD (Bristol), (Lecturer), Structural optimisation, rapid analysis techniques, non-symmetric laminates, tailoring non-linear elasticity.

Professor Ivana Partridge BA, MA(Cantab), PhD(CranIT), (IDC Director, Professor), Toughening of polymers and composites, thermoset cure, through-the-thickness reinforcement of composites.

Dr Alberto Pirrera MSc(Palermo), PhD, (CDT Co-Director for the Taught Programme, Senior Lecturer), Structural analysis, design and optimisation, shell structures, wind turbine blades, morphing, buckling and post-buckling.

Professor Kevin Potter PhD, CEng, BSc, (Professor), Composites manufacturing, reinforcement deformation, dimensional variability, defect generation.

Dr Sona Ruskanova MSc, PhD, (Senior Lecturer), Manufacturing technology, sandwich composite structures, thick‐walled structural composites, FST composites, composites in automotive

Professor Fabrizio Scarpa Laurea, PhD(Torino), (Professor), Auxetic materials, smart materials and structures, morphing structures, multidomain design of components, damping technologies, nanostructures.

Dr Mark Schenk MSc(Delft), PhD(Cantab), (Lecturer), Structural analysis, deployable structures, morphing structures.

Dr Valeska Ting BSciTech (Victoria University of Wellington), PhD (Australian National University), (Reader and Research Director for the School of Civil, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering), Smart, functional nanomaterial composites, porous composite materials.

Professor Richard Trask BEng, MSc, PhD(Soton), (Professor), Biologically inspired multifunctional composite materials: 3D additive manufacture, novel fibre architecture, self-healing networks, adaptive colour and shape change

Dr Carwyn Ward BEng(Hons), MRes(Swan), PhD(Bristol), (Lecturer), Composites manufacture, automation for composites, factory processes/operations, process optimisation, costs, recycling, assembly & repair.

Professor Paul Weaver BSc, PhD(N'cle), (CDT Co-Director, Professor), Composite plates and shells, buckling, cellular structures and morphing composites, stiffness tailoring.

Professor Michael Wisnom BSc(Lond), PhD(Bristol), MIMechE, (Director of the Bristol Composites Institute (ACCIS), Professor), High performance ductile composites, failure mechanisms, predicting the behaviour of composite structures and materials.

Dr Ben Woods BS(Maryland), MS(Maryland), PhD(Maryland), (Lecturer), Compliant morphing aerostructures, composite truss structures, novel composite manufacturing methods, adaptive structures, actuators, human powered flight, design optimisation.

How to apply
Application deadline:

See the ACCIS CDT website for current application deadline.

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, applying for a visa and the support we offer to international students.

I chose Bristol because of its outstanding academic reputation. It's reassuring to be taught by people who truly love their subject - their passion becomes contagious.


REF 2014 results

  • General Engineering:
  • 38% of research is world-leading (4*)
  • 55% of research is internationally excellent (3*)
  • 6% of research is recognised internationally (2*)
  • 1% of research is recognised nationally (1*)

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.

Bristol Doctoral College

The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

Open days and visits

Find out more about opportunities to visit Bristol.

Register to attend our postgraduate open day, 20 November 2019.

Get in touch

Phone: +44 (0) 117 331 5309 Email: composites-cdt@bristol.ac.uk

Centre for Doctoral Training in Composites Science, Engineering and Manufacturing
University of Bristol
Queen's Building
University Walk
Bristol BS8 1TR http://www.bristol.ac.uk/composites/cdt/


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