(The steel foam sandwich specimen, showing the core comprised of steel hollow spheres.)
The Research Award offers grants of £6,000 to support collaborative research projects between industry and academia. Previous winner, Dr Stelios Yiatros, Assistant Professor in Structural Engineering at Cyprus University of Technology, describes how he used the funding.
I applied for the Institution's Research Award because it's a great opportunity to explore new angles in research or extend current projects. I was working at Cranfield University with the Offshore Renewable Energy Engineering Centre on the experimental integrity and stability of metal foam sandwich components, and saw that the work might well meet the criteria for a Research Award.
In 2016 Professor Brennan of Cranfield University and I formed a partnership with Ramboll to perform vibration testing of steel foam sandwich components, exploring new applications for this material, which can both absorb vibrations and mitigate buckling - improving fatigue life. This pilot study was intended to aid development of multifunctional wind turbine stiffeners, giving UK industry and academia an edge.
(Test set up with specimen on the shaker with accelerometers for measuring acceleration characteristics at the support and a laser vibrometer for the free edge.)
We did some pilot vibration tests on steel foam sandwich specimens, measuring natural frequencies and damping while considering the foam density - considering a two phase (foam+oil) core in these sandwich components. Our hypothesis is that these components can be tuned to act as dampers on fatigue prone structures.
This research topic is of great interest to the offshore wind industry, where towers are susceptible to fatigue, and Ramboll's offshore wind team were interested in the potential of the material. Upon receiving the early experimental results, they offered advice on potential developments for structural passive dampers.
I think I was successful in my application because the panel found our research agenda promising and we had a clear focus on one of the Institution's Research Themes - Construction Materials (Advanced engineering materials). We were already working on the static properties of an exotic lightweight metallic material and we felt that by quantifying its damping characteristics we could pursue a multifunctional design prototype for fatigue prone structures. I think the Awards Panel also appreciated that our submission would leverage an existing project.
My advice to applicants would be: Find a suitable industrial partner and see how they can help you develop an existing project.
We used the grant for some workshop time for grips, laboratory equipment and time in the dynamics lab. After promising results, we are now working on a prototype for further tests, and considering creating FE models for simulations.
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