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Audible Acoustics for Damage Detection in Aerospace Composite Structures

This research project is in competition for funding with one or more projects available across the EPSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). Usually the projects which receive the best applicants will be awarded the funding. Find out more information about the DTP and how to apply.

Start date: 1 October 2019

Cardiff University, Airbus, AcSoft and gfai tech are offering this unique opportunity to be part of an international collaboration to develop a carbon fibre composite damage detection system using Audible Acoustics (AA) for aerospace applications.

The aim of the PhD studentship will be to establish the fundamental science in this novel area. This includes:

  • Manufacture and testing of composite components.
  • Experimental investigation to determine the relationship between damage initiation and growth and the resulting AA signatures.
  • Developing signal processing techniques by translating traditional Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) techniques and applying to AA.
  • Development of advanced signal processing techniques to enhance detection and classify different damage mechanisms.


You will be part of the Tribology and Performance of Machines, Structures and Materials (TPMSM) research group in the structural performance team. The team specialises in industrially focused research and has worked with Airbus, Boeing, BAE systems, MBDA, Mistras Group, MOD and Microsemi.

The group is world renowned for its research into the development of online structural health monitoring techniques utilising Acoustic Emission. It has successfully been involved in a variety of industry focussed research projects looking at developing autonomous self-powered health monitoring of structures (SHEMS ref:100444 , SENTIENT ref:101657, SANDWICH ref: 131191, MONTAGU: 102158). The group has been externally recognised for its innovation receiving awards from the University and MBDA.

The School of Engineering is internationally recognised for the impact of its research which was demonstrated by the group’s impact case study on making bridges safer in the last Research Excellence Framework assessment.

This PhD studentship will build on this world-renowned research and apply it to a novel research area of AA for damage detection. This will lead to the underlying scientific understanding, the focus of which is monitoring certification testing of large-scale composite structures.

This studentship will benefit from a successful £200k internal research grant to purchase an Acoustic Camera (AC). This equipment is utilised to visualise the source location of sound, however the AC has not been exploited for detection and location of damage in composite materials. Therefore, the studentship offers the opportunity to be part of a challenging project that could lead to a step change in the monitoring of aerospace components at Airbus.

Project aims and methods

Imagine a damage detection system for composite structures developed around microphones which with the necessary research could radicalise NDT techniques – creating a simple to operate Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) system.

Although this is a highly novel application of acoustics, the studentship aims are fully achievable within the 3.5 year timeline, providing the fundamental science to build and take this non-contact NDT technique to full scale trials. The application will develop excellent skills in signal processing, composite manufacture and novelty detection. The project will be divided into three main Work Packages:

Damage growth and resulting AA relationship

The objective will be to understand the mechanisms between damage initiation and the associated release of sound. Therefore, an extensive experimental programme will be undertaken to promote different failure types. The milestone (M1) will be completion of the experimental testing alongside a journal paper (Deliverable - D1) on the development of an AA damage detection system.

AA signal processing

The objective will be to develop a suite of signal processing techniques to confidently detect damage. This will include techniques translated from traditional NDT and involve advanced signal processing algorithms to enhance damage detection. The deliverable (D2) will be a journal paper on the associated signal processing techniques. In conjunction with two milestones (M2.1) will be an open source suite of signal processing techniques which will be available to others and a presentation at a national conference (M2.2)

Validation testing on realistic structures

The aim will be to combine the outcomes of WP1 and WP2 and apply them to realistic composite structures. The deliverables D3.1 will be the development of a demonstrator platform and D3.2 a case study journal paper. Again, there will be two milestones, M3.1 will be the completion of the validation trials and M3.2 a presentation at an international conference.

The deliverables and milestones will be aligned with the student’s internal review process ensuring progress and expectations are suitably managed throughout the project. The internal review process consists of a 3 month, annual and interim reviews between the annual meetings. The experimental programme methodology will be finalised at the initial 3-month review.

Annual review 1 objective will be completion of the experimental programme (M1 and D1). Interim review 1 will coincide with the journal paper on the signal processing techniques (D2). The aims of annual review 2 will be publishing of the open source signal processing suite (M2.1) and presenting at a national conference (M2.2).

Interim review 2 will see the student complete the development of the platform for field trials (D3.1). Annual review 3 objectives will be the completion of the testing on representative structures (M3.1), the associated journal paper (D3.2) and presenting the results at an international conference (M3.2). This framework will ensure the student is fully supported and will lead to the successful completion of the project.


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Dr Matthew Pearson

Research Associate

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Dr Rhys Pullin

Senior Lecturer - Teaching and Research

+44 (0)29 2087 9374

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