Technologies to support the use of metal matrix composites in satellite optical assemblies
The design, analysis and verification of optical instruments for space applications present significant challenges related to the materials and manufacturing techniques utilised for their structural components.
As the various issues that have to be addressed are interrelated between them, the research will have a multi-prong approach and tackle different topics.
A significant portion of the work will focus on powder metallurgy and bespoke materials to enhance the performances of optical benches (e.g. mixed metal structures using powder metallurgy to morph from aluminium to titanium without a discontinuous transition or graduated CFRP layup to give change of properties along the length of the structure i.e. metering tubes). SiC reinforced Al alloys have shown great potential to increase stiffness and damping without increasing the mass of the assembly. However reliable/efficient characterisation, analyses and verification techniques need to be further developed to allow a confident and efficient use of these materials in space applications.
The development of FEM techniques to predict correctly the inbuilt stress in an assembly with a temperature dependent modulus, or evaluation and possible elimination of surface damage from wire electro–discharge–machining structural components without need for polishing are also some of the specific topics that will be investigated during this research.
SSTL Rayleigh House in Sevenoaks, Kent and accommodates 30 optical instrument engineers from all disciplines. Rayleigh House is equipped with: a suite of Class 1000 and Class 100 clean rooms; laboratories for detector evaluation and electronics development; precision workshop equipped with CNC and manual machines; vibration and thermal vacuum test equipment; co-ordinate measuring machines; interferometers and purpose-built equipment for testing optical instruments.
A substantial investment has been done in this area and this project is actually part of the company R&D process and the EngD research engineer will be imbedded in their team.
Areas of originality in the project:
Advanced structural materials, i.e. Metal Matrix Composites (MMC’s), whose formulation can be tailored in order to achieve specific performances, offer the potential to achieve substantial improvements in the structure for optical systems for space application.
This project will develop tools to support analysis and verification of these materials to increase reliability and extend the use of these materials to relevant structural components.
A key aspect of the EngD is the use of advanced characterisation facilities. Please indicate what these are likely to be and differentiate between those at the sponsor’s premises and those at the University.
It is envisaged that the student will need the use of Equipment / microscopes for investigation on the MicroStructure of materials / Surface Analysis Laboratory; plus he/she will need to use some standard mechanical testing machines, e.g. Instron
The company will give access to other test facilities, e.g. for vibration testing.
What would be the ideal academic background and experience of a suitable candidate?
A 1st or 2.1 MEng degree in Engineering Aerospace or Mechanical or Materials or similar discipline (candidates with only BEng degree may be considered). The candidate should have demonstrated attitude to project work, and ability to work alone or as part of a team. Besides purely academic skills, some practical experience would be beneficial.
Only UK or EU students are eligible for this post.
For informal inquiries contact: Professor G. Aglietti (G.Aglietti@surrey.ac.uk)