Unlocking and developing the full research potential of Lublin University of Technology's Centre for Modern Composite Materials (CMCM) is the goal of Cemcast, a project funded through the FP7 Research Potential programme. By ensuring that the Centre is fully capable of developing and testing the very latest in composite materials, the project hopes to secure Europe's position as a leader in aviation and transport research.
An important aspect of this is the enhancement of the CMCM's capacity to participate in research activities at the EU level, and to become better integrated and visible in the European Research Area (ERA).
"EU funding and support has so far helped to unlock and develop the full research potential of researchers at the Lublin University of Technology," says project coordinator Tomasz Sadowski, Head of the Solid Mechanics Department at Lublin University of Technology. "It has also been possible to upgrade research equipment for testing composite materials."
The upgrade has included an extension of the existing 3-D Image Correlation System ARAMIS, for high-speed measurements of displacement due to different types of loading, and a thermo-vision infra-red camera, used for inspecting components for cracks and other defects. "A new stress screening system for monitoring the behaviour of certain composite materials subjected to thermal loading has also been introduced," adds Sadowski. "This system will be used for testing structural elements applied in both the aerospace and pavement industry. The system can be used together with the extended ARAMIS system to monitor defects under quick temperature changes."
The upgrade also includes a corrosion chamber which will be used for testing layered materials for pavements and aircraft parts that can also be affected in corrosive environments. A temperature shock chamber will enable researchers to determine the influence of sudden temperature changes on composites, and to estimate safe operation parameters after such fluctuations.
"New ideas and innovations have already been obtained in the modelling of different types of composite materials and applying newly formulated concepts to engineering problems in aerospace and surface transport infrastructure," continues Sadowski. "The application of these modern composite materials will help in the development of safer and 'smarter' European transport, mainly aviation, for the benefit of all citizens."
Another significant aspect of the project has been the organisation of staff visits to partner institutions, the recruitment of five foreign researchers and enhanced participation in international conferences.
All these initiatives have helped to raise the Centre's profile, and have already made a difference, as Sadowski explains: "Partnerships have now been established with 11 foreign institutions, and twinning co-operation has resulted in the publication of a book, 13 book chapters and 27 papers. A further 10 papers have been submitted to international journals."
The project has also attracted interest from around Europe. For example, Professor Alessandro Pirondi from the University of Parma in Italy proposed to Professor Sadowski the preparation of a joint FP7 research proposal with seven other international partners, entitled 'Virtual assessment of low-velocity impact damage in composite airframes'.
Co-operation with other institutions and the recruitment of foreign researchers will continue for the duration of the project, and more publications will be prepared and submitted to international journals. It is expected that the positive impact the project has already had on composites research in Lublin will be extended over the longer term.
"The expected socio-economic impact is that Lublin University of Technology will become an important research centre and place for establishing international scientific co-operation in Europe," says Sadowski. "It will become more competitive in the preparation of proposals and will help stimulate local industry. Researchers will acquire new knowledge and skills.
"I am proud of the spectacular increase we have seen in our research potential, and I am also proud of our new testing abilities," he concludes.