• Researchers at London Imperial College’s department of aeronautics were seeking ways to improve the strength, fracture response and damage tolerance of composite materials and graphene through the use of engineered microstructures. The team needed to develop methodologies for simulating and analyzing the properties of these materials, which are increasingly being used in aerospace, automotive, energy and other industries, for lightweighting and other sustainability goals.


  • The Imperial College team developed a molecular-dynamics code needed to simulate the materials’ behavior using Abaqus finite element analysis (FEA) from Dassault Systèmes SIMULIA. Abaqus provided the ability to have different length and time scales in their analyses, such as using Explicit and Standard in different portions of a structure. Abaqus’ “plug-in friendliness” allowed the researchers to develop their own subroutines to complement and expand the software’s native capabilities. The ability to create “handshake” regions between Abaqus meshes was also important to the research.


  • The researchers found that their fundamental understanding of the structure and behavior of complex composite and graphene materials was greatly improved through their use of Abaqus FEA. They predict further progress in designing nanoscale structures, and tailoring them to produce desired mechanical properties, through the use of simulation.

Microscale Material Modeling with Abaqus Subroutine Support

Professor Silvestre Pinho is a member of the engineering faculty at London’s Imperial College department of aeronautics. He and his team of postdoctoral researchers and Ph.D. students use Abaqus finite element analysis (FEA) tools from SIMULIA to study the structural design and simulation of graphene, carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), and similar materials. Their goal? To improve the strength, fracture response, and damage tolerance of composite materials through the use of engineered microstructures. Their work could be described as building a stronger house by engineering the internal structure of each brick, or making cars safer by designing chassis and body parts from the molecular level up.

In fact, this last application is one likely outcome of the team’s studies. Some current real-world examples of where these new materials could be used include aircraft fuselage, race-car bodies, and the blades of wind turbines or helicopters. And once the manufacturing processes for these microstructure-reinforced composites become commonplace and production costs come down, Pinho envisions them being used in a wide variety of everyday products.

Knowing that we could do all these things within the finite element framework of Abaqus itself has been quite important to our work. It’s a very powerful tool.

Silvestre Pinho, Professor of Engineering
Imperial College of London
Abaqus material correlation FEA case study cover Just how powerful is Abaqus subroutining for material characterization?

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DLC: Case Study: Imperial College Direct

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