Skip to main content

Sustainable Systems and Structures

Detecting and preventing damage in materials and structures in automotive, manufacturing and aerospace engineering.

Undertaking fundamental research in tribology, material science and structural health monitoring, our Sustainable Systems and Structures (SSS) group creates engineering solutions that can tackle global challenges.


Recent years have seen significant global requirements to develop sustainable systems and structures with the aim of reducing the use of the planet’s natural resources. Research in sustainability can generate a significant impact to industry and society, through collaboratively developing solutions to real-world-driven challenges.

The SSS group undertakes fundamental and industrially applied research in a range of disciplines including aerospace, automotive, civil, manufacturing, and medical engineering. Research in the group focuses on the design, validation, analysis and inspection of a wide range of systems and structures to deliver a sustainable approach.

We have six main members and more than four associate members from across all disciplines within the School of Engineering. Our broad spectrum of expertise enables us to apply our work in several high-impact research areas. Some of these include:

  • Tribology
  • Advanced Modelling and Optimisation
  • Structural Health Monitoring and Damage Detection
  • Advanced Materials and Recycling

The group aims to offer operators of high-value structures and systems the potential to increase usage, reduce maintenance costs and improve safety.


We aim to deliver sustainable structures and systems through the modelling, monitoring and testing of materials and providing solutions through industrial collaborative partnerships. The group has extensive experience in profilometry, numerical analysis, acoustic emission monitoring, finite element modelling and optimization in combination with an extensive laboratory environment. These facilities include composite manufacturing, structural testing, gear and bearing rig test facilities and a broad range of analytical tools.

Our current research areas include:


A major research aim of the group is to improve understanding of the gear distress phenomena of micropitting, scuffing and wear. Also, at the nano scale, research into the problems of contact and adhesion is being aided by pre-fractal representations of surface geometry.

Advanced Modelling and Optimisation

The group aims to develop new modelling and optimisation approaches of systems and structures to ensure high performance.

Structural Health Monitoring and Damage Detection

With more complex damage mechanisms and lower safety factors, Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) systems are becoming essential to ensure the integrity of lightweight structures. Acoustic emission, audible acoustics and guided waves are being used to detect and locate damage in metallic and composite structures. We have an established track record of working in large structures to deliver industrial solutions.

Advanced Materials and Recycling

The group is responding to the recent emphasis on the design and development of new materials. We have investigated the use of Carbon Nanotubes (CNT) and Graphene in carbon fibre resin infusion techniques for aerospace components. The use of such materials can yield increased mechanical, thermal and electrical conductivity performance. Key areas of application include the aerospace and wind turbine sectors. In addition, the group is investigating the recycling and processing of plastic materials, one of the worlds largest pollutants.


The projects we are currently working on cover a large number of engineering sectors including aerospace, transport, medical, manufacturing and energy generation. The team focusses on industrial translational research to maximise economic and societal impact. Funding sources include EPSRC, EU, Innovate UK, and the Ministry of Defence. We also obtain direct funding from industry.

Current projects include:

  • The development of wireless autonomous SHM systems, based on acoustic emission for aerospace applications – Airbus, BAe Systems, TWI, HW Communications Limited.
  • The development of power management control systems for energy harvesting applications – Microsemi and Airbus.
  • Optimisation of sensor positions in complex structures - Airbus.
  • The creation of tools to identify of the onset of damage in rotating machinery using acoustic emission – Mistras Group UK.
  • The detection and location of damage in composite military components – Ministry of Defence, Microsemi, Morgan Composites.
  • Development of composite materials impregnated with carbon nanotubes and graphene for aerospace applications – Haydale Ltd.
  • Experimental studies of elastohydrodynamic lubrication (EHL) failure mechanisms, surface roughness and coatings.
  • Studies based on numerical analyses of fundamental and applied tribological problems.
  • Fundamental contact mechanics of micro and nano scale tribological contacts.

Further ongoing research investigates embedded sensor technologies for composite materials/laminates, damage detection and location in wind turbine blades, identification of wear in the human body using acoustic emission and monitoring of control processes such as composite drilling and additive manufacturing.

Meet the team

Lead researcher

Academic staff

Next steps


Research that matters

Our research makes a difference to people’s lives as we work across disciplines to tackle major challenges facing society, the economy and our environment.


Postgraduate research

Our research degrees give the opportunity to investigate a specific topic in depth among field-leading researchers.


Our research impact

Our research case studies highlight some of the areas where we deliver positive research impact.