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Tribology and Performance of Machines, Structures and Materials Research Group

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

Damage in structures such as buildings, bridges, or aircraft components, can have a devastating effect. Manufacturing efficient structures, as well as detecting and preventing damage, is an important challenge for engineers.

The Mechanical and Structural Performance Group works across 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 advanced materials and structures.

The group is also involved in the study of surfaces and their interactions. These interactions include motion, contact, adhesion, indentation, friction, lubrication, fatigue and wear. This study is vitally important for a lot of different materials and their uses in a range of machinery and devices, at a range of scales.


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


Acoustic emission and guided waves

With more complex damage mechanisms and lower safety factors, Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) systems are becoming essential to ensure structural integrity. Acoustic emission and guided waves are being used to detect and locate damage in metallic and composite structures. We have a long track record of working in large structures; landing gears, metallic and composite aerostructures and bridge structures.

Energy harvesting

Energy harvesting from thermal difference, radio frequency and vibration is also being assessed as a method of powering SHM systems. In addition, we also focus on the design of power management technology to allow the harvested energy to be used efficiently. In conjunction with our damage detection work the group offers a holistic approach to the design and development of autonomous damage detection systems.


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.

Quality control and management

We are also involved in process monitoring for quality control and management. Solutions from novel approaches used in this research have been integrated into a wide range of applications including machine tools, rotating machinery (gears and bearings), additive layer manufacturing, pneumatic systems, robotics and continuous processes such as water filtration and energy systems.

Material development

The group is responding to the recent emphasis on the design and development of new materials. In conjunction with Haydale Ltd., 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.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

In addition to core research we have a very strong record in developing processes and products for large and small industrial partners though the Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme. As a research group we are highly creative and develop novel solutions to real industrial problems. Projects have been completed with Reid Lifting Limited, SKF, Flintec and Loadlok amongst others.


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

Associated staff

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