Studentship: Integrating Protective Functionality (Blast and Impact Resistance) into Lightweight Structures

Duration of Studentship: 3 years

Vacancy Information

UCL’s Department of Mechanical Engineering is offering a three year studentship focussing on integrating protective functionality (blast and impact resistance) into lightweight structures. 

The studenship offers full tuition fees and a stipend of up to £15,363 per annum (for 3 years). Funding is provided through a UCL Impact Scheme and MOD.

Studentship Description

This project, involving the design of protective functionality into lightweight structures, straddles the traditional disciplines of materials and structures. This project has immediate relevance to other areas of civilian application even though the principal application here is to maritime vessels. The project will involve theoretical modelling and numerical simulations (finite element and optimisation). Protection of personnel, assets and operational equipment within the hull envelope in maritime vessels against the threat of blast and fragment is normally achieved using a multi-hazard approach involving a complex series of trade-offs that must be balanced against other design constraints. At present, the threat protection level for critical compartments will need to be identified first through a vulnerability analysis against customer specified threats. This information then forms part of the design input that will determine the arrangement and restricts the choice of material used, or reinforcements needed, to construct the bulkheads. Whilst it is possible to incorporate measures to mitigate the effects of blast overloads and penetrating fragments on critical compartments that were identified a priori, it is nearly impossible to predict the level, type and, critically, the location from an asymmetric threat posed by terrorists, insurgent, and, more recently, seafaring pirates. The common practice to protect against internal blast and fragmentation is to use armoured plates, thicker blast shields or other heavy composites as ‘add-on’ armour. However, this approach is not only costly to implement but also creates supportability issues, increases fuel costs and imposes further design constraints due to topside structural weight limitations. Over the last decade, a number of new core topologies for metal sandwich panels have emerged showing structural advantage over monolithic constructions. They could offer a lightweight alternative to the traditional bulkheads and are capable of resisting impulsive loads that are significantly higher than in monolithic constructions of equivalent weight.

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The proposed project aims to (1) integrate the ‘blast-resistant’ sandwich concept into the existing structural functionality of bulkheads in ships, (2) establish viable watertight ‘sandwich-bulkhead’ designs, (3) examine solution strategies for using ceramic coatings for spall debris containment in ‘sandwich bulkheads’, and (4) formulate design methodologies and design charts for the ‘sandwich bulkheads’. 

Person Specification

Applicants should have a background in Applied Mathematics or Engineering (with a high theoretical content). Familiarity with ABAQUS (finite-element software) and Mathematical Optimisation is an advantage. Only students with a UK-equivalent First Class Honours degree, or are expected to receive one, will be considered.


Funding requirements dictate ONLY UK and EU passport holders need apply. Please DO NOT enquire about this project if you are ineligible.

Contact name: PJ Tan
Contact details:

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Closing Date: 30 May 2014
Studentship Start Date: Open until filled (closing date) and by mutual agreement (start date)

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