Varicomp considers the new high-value design and manufacturing area of shape changing composite materials and their engineering structures.  Currently, composites provide excellent strength and stiffness at low weight, hence being suitable for structures that move, e.g. bicycles, cars, aeroplanes and spacecraft.

We will enable new composite materials and structures that can reshape themselves and respond to changes in their environment to improve performance, e.g. shape changing aircraft where wing shape changes as it transitions from take-off to cruise and back to landing, similar to bird flight.  Indeed, there is a growing recognition that multifunctional hierarchical materials can be engineered and manufactured, with the goal of creating structures that are no longer homogeneous but contain internal structure at different length-scales to fulfil functions that are not necessarily just structural.

This programme of work will contribute to this goal by developing specific types of advanced composite materials and their resulting structures that have variable properties both spatially and temporally, so as to change performance characteristics, in response to varying operating conditions.  We call these new materials Varicomposites.

We will develop the capability to purposefully design such variability into composite materials and structures.  New modelling techniques will be developed that not only capture their complex responses but also do so relatively simply so that these models form tools that can be subsequently used for design purposes.  Simultaneously, we will address traditional weaknesses of composites, including their poor “strength in the field” and product quality by developing beyond state-of-the-art computationally efficient models for stress and strength, and by improving their manufacturability.  A suite of morphing technology demonstrators will be produced.

Varicomposites will enable smart structures that can adapt to environmental conditions according to design requirements, providing tremendous potential for product innovation.

Prof. Paul Weaver

Bernal Chair Composite Materials and their Structures
SFI Research Professor

Paul is the Bernal Chair of Composite Materials and their Structures at the University of Limerick; SFI Research Professor; Professor of Lightweight Structures at the University of Bristol; Director of Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science (ACCIS) Centre for Doctoral Training; Director of the Vestas Wind Systems Preferred Partnership in Composites; Director of the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult’s Wind Blade Research Hub and a current Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award holder.