A crush on carbon-fibre composites

Niklas Jansson at FS Dynamics has been given a grant from the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SFS). The grant allows him to do research on the simulation of what happens to carbon fibre-reinforced polymers (CFRP) when they’re exposed to a crash .

The research Niklas Jansson is going to do will be conducted at Chalmers in Gothenburg, where Niklas got his PhD some years ago. As employed at FS Dynamics, getting the fund is a way to be able to do research, while still being attached to his employer. The programme has allowed Niklas to do a full year’s research, paying his salary during the whole research time.

Simulation of composites crushing

The research is built on the extensive amount of recent research conducted at Chalmers to develop CAE tools for crash simulation with composites. The main objective is to further improve current models and methods to better reproduce (simulate) the compressive failure mechanisms of carbon fibre-reinforced polymers. The problem here is that the composites undergo brittle failure and almost disintegrates during crashes. This compared to where other, more common vehicle material like metals and plastics, buckles and dents, but don’t fracture. Being able to see what happens to the material and its properties is a building block on the road to make crash simulation with composites a reality and also something others can build their research on.

– FS Dynamics is a simulation company; in everyday work we perform analyses to help to design structures so they will not break and fracture. With some conservatism this works well also for composites. This research is quite different and more challenging, as I’m going to try to accurately predict when structures fracture and what happens then, Niklas explains his upcoming research.

– Advanced composites fail in compression due to the instability and fibre fracture – modelled as a crack today. However, this is unphysical as in reality the polymer matrix with broken fibres will continue to be crushed and carry load until it plainly shears away. This mechanism is one of the features we would like to include in the modelling, to better describe the fracture process under compression loading and crushing.

As the development of cars being largely computer-based, with physical prototypes built and crash tests performed only late in the process, the ability to digitally simulate composite structures behaviour during crash more accurate will improve the confidence to design with composites.

Mobility programme grant

The grant to FS Dynamics and Niklas is one of only 13 given this time, for a total of SEK 15 million within the SFS’ Mobility programme. This programme strives to support individuals to do research away from their current employer. During the research period, the visiting researcher conducts strategic research within a research institute of some sort. The programme is aimed at promoting people who wish to acquire and contribute relevant knowledge in another sector and subsequently return to the employer.

Personal mobility between different sectors in society is an important factor for making knowledge and technology accessible to the industry. Mobility between industry and academia is according to the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research limited. In the US there is an established system of leaves of absence, sabbaticals, aimed at stimulating renewal based on personal mobility. Only limited funding is available in Sweden today for such purposes.

– I really enjoy my work at FS Dynamics and want to stay with them. But being able to do this research is a golden opportunity to pursuit the ideas and insights I have gained from the FS Dynamics participation as an industrial partner in research programs. As this is something outside the scope of my work for FS Dynamics, I’m thankful towards SFS that they have given me this chance to do some academic research.

– Even if that research isn’t at the very business core of what FS Dynamics normally do. I’m thankful to both FS Dynamics and to the SFS that I can do this, Niklas Jansson concludes.

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