The Engineer – 13 September 2012 | By Stuart Nathan
A research project based at Bristol University aims to overcome some of the difficulties of designing dynamic systems, and could allow engineers to build more efficient wind turbines, safer buildings and even better microscopes.
The five-year project has received £4.2m funding from the EPSRC.
The current problem, explained project director Prof David Wagg, head of structural dynamics at Bristol’s mechanical engineering department, is that design tools — even advanced finite-element analysis systems — can only deal with structures that react linearly to the forces that act on them. ‘But in the real world, things are more complex,’ he said. ‘For example, if you’re dealing with a large wind turbine rotor, the blades will bend under their own weight, even when they’re static. When they’re moving, their behaviour becomes much harder to model, and you have to avoid a situation where they’d flex so much that they could actually hit the supporting tower.’