Our Structures research theme has substantial expertise in deterministic and probabilistic numerical modelling, physical testing and theoretical work in various structural materials, particularly in structural concrete, structural reliability and life-cycle cost analysis. Research has been funded by both the Government and the private sector.

Our structural concrete researchers have expertise and interests encompassing: non-destructive examination; development of analytical and numerical models of concrete deterioration caused by loads and aggressive environments; effects of deterioration on both strength and serviceability of structures; and structural aspects or repair and strengthening. These serve as a basis for the development of strategies for lifetime management of concrete structures. Our research in this area has been supported by the EU and BT Openreach. There are significant links between this work and the durability work undertaken within the Construction Materials and GeoMechanics Group.

Dr John Cairns has long term involvement in research into bond behaviour and anchorage of conventional and externally adhesive bonded fibre re-inforcement, and in the use of headed bar ends for anchorage in wall/slab connections. This work was funded by Ancon Building Products.

One of our subject specific areas within our structural reliability research is reliability-based assessment of ageing structures based on deterioration modelling, inspection/structural health monitoring and past performance. This research also includes life-cycle cost analysis of deteriorating structures and development of reliability-based maintenance and repair strategies. Another area of reliability assessment is that of marine energy converters, in particular the structural components of tidal stream turbines such as blades and the supporting structure.

An additional area of our research, led by Professor Dimitri Val, is the modelling of effects of natural hazards on infrastructure systems in conditions of climate change. His work is aimed at developing models capable of simulating the performance of infrastructures systems (e.g. water, energy, transport) and taking into account their interdependencies that will assist in formulating strategies for improving infrastructure resilience.

Case study

Multi-Wavelength Sized Finite Elements for Three Dimensional Elastic Wave Problems
(Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 2010 – ongoing)

Researchers within this theme are leading on a project in partnership with Durham University that is looking at elastic wave propagation modelling. The numerical modelling of many engineering applications, including traffic vibrations from roads and railways, seismic induced vibrations and foundation construction requires finite element grids sufficiently fine in comparison with the wavelengths, to get accurate results. In the case of high frequency (small wavelength) and/or large domains of interest, the finite element mesh requires a large number of elements, and consequently the procedure becomes computationally expensive and impractical. 

The aim of this research project is to accurately model three dimensional elastic wave problems with fewer elements and without refining the mesh at each frequency. The resulting improvement in computational efficiency will enable problems of practical interest to be simulated using computing facilities available in most engineering design offices.

When this research field reaches maturity, it will benefit the oil and civil engineering industries through practical computer analysis to support design. Applications include geophysical prospecting and location of hydrocarbon reserves, but also problems involving vibrations caused by roads and railways, elastic waves caused by piling of foundations, earthquake wave propagation and aseismic design.

In the long term, the resulting improvement in computational efficiency will enable a number of problems of practical interest to be simulated using computing facilities available in most engineering design offices.

Contributing staff