Available student project - Wood-based Mechanical Metamaterials

Research fields

  • Topological and Structural Science
  • Engineering in Physics
(a) Glulam arches of the Sheffield Winter Garden. (b) Twist from Emergent Technologies and Design program, UK. (c) Micro-tomographic section of a failed glue lines in a glulam made of Darwin stringy bark.

Project details

The architecture of a material is a key to understanding its mechanical properties and functionalities. The field of mechanical metamaterials is a fast-developing research domain exploiting this connection between form and function of a material to realise original functionalities such as mechanical programmability, controlled shape-shifting, or even topologically protected mechanical properties [1].

A stunning example of mechanical metamaterials is glued laminated timber, also abbreviated glulam. Glulam is one of the most versatile engineered materials allowing the realisation of remarkable wood structures [2]. It is manufactured from layers of timber that are glued together to form a structural member with targeted dimensions, profile and strength. Glulam is a sustainable material that optimises the structural values of wood by exploiting its anisotropic mechanical properties and by reducing the impact of natural defects (knots, splits). It is a paradigm of a composite material combining the unique structural and mechanical features of wood with that of a synthetic glue. One of the key challenges in the glulam manufacturing is the prediction of the mechanical behaviour and strength of the wood-glue interface.

This experimental project, in collaboration with industry partners, aims at combining micro-tomography imaging and mechanical testing to characterise the structural and mechanical properties of the wood-glue interface in glulam. It will produce the knowledge basis required to realise the next-generation of engineered wood structures. During the project, this knowledge will also be exploited to design glulam-inspired soft metamaterials made of elastomers that could be used in diverse applications in wearables or soft robotics. 

[1] K. Bertoldi et al., Nature Materials, 2 17066 (2017); C. Coulais et al, Nature, 535, 529 (2016).

[2] https://www.trada.co.uk/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glued_laminated_timber,https://www.trada.co.uk/, https://www.structuraltimber.co.uk/assets/InformationCentre/eb8.pdf

Required background

Interest in materials science/physics/engineering/computational science.

Good communication skills and ability to work as part of a wider national and international team. 

This project can be a whole year project (honours physics or engineering) where the student will focus on one specific aspect of the physics of engineered wood structure or a PhD in Physics or Engineering where the student will look to study and develop a broad range of wood-based and wood-inspired metamaterials.

Project suitability

This research project can be tailored to suit students of the following type(s)
  • Honours or MSc project
  • Phd or MPhil

Contact supervisor

Francois, Nicolas profile

Other supervisor(s)

Saadatfar, Mohammad profile

Leggate, William profile

Knackstedt, Mark profile

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