Flax used as alternative manufacturing material

Materials engineering research

One of our Mechanical Engineering areas of expertise

In response to the ever-worsening condition of our planet – caused by environmental crises such as climate change and pollution – our research in materials engineering is helping make manufacturing more sustainable. 

Our multidisciplinary and collaborative research focuses on a variety of key topics, including the creation of more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly lightweight composite materials, for use within the automotive, marine, aerospace, and construction industries.

In partnership with businesses, organisations and other partners, we're also developing hybrid, long-term durable bio-based composites – made from waste biomass, using the latest imaging and nanoindentation testing techniques  – to meet the mechanical performance required by the same industries.

Our researchers have interest, expertise and industry expertise in a variety of research and development activities including: analysis, characterisation, formulation, manufacturing, design, modelling, rapid prototyping, 3-D printing, testing, repair, structural integrity evaluation, applications and knowledge transfer of advanced materials and manufacturing.

The outputs of our research are frequently published in leading academic journals within the field, including the Journal of Composite Science and Technology, Composite Structures, Industrial Crops, Polymer Testing, Fatigue and Fracture of Engineering Materials and Structures, Biomaterials Science and Engineering, and Materials.

Our research focuses on the following key topics

  • Mechanical testing (impact, tensile, fracture toughness, compression and flexural)
  • Long term durability and corrosion testing
  • Vibration and fatigue 
  • Advanced Manufacturing (Additive manufacturing, composite manufacturing)
  • Design, development and materials testing and characterisation
  • Materials/Mechanical testing (tensile, compression and flexural test at low and elevated temperatures, pendulum, falling weight and ballistic test impact and hardness)
  • Nano-testing (indentation, scratching and impact)
  • Thermal characterisation (MDSC, DSC, TGA, TMA, DMA, Laser flash and hot-wire thermal conductivities)
  • Durability testing (thermal, chemical, moisture, UV and hygrothermal degradation test)
  • Surface properties test (contact angle, surface tension and surface topography);
  • Manufacturing (vacuum bagging, compression moulding, injection moulding, thermoforming and RTM)
  • Modelling (analytical and numerical) and simulation of artificial hip and knee joints, materials failure, damage and manufacturing processes
  • Fatigue/fracture, creep and oxidation at elevated temperature
  • Machining of materials, such as conventional and non-conventional drillings, among others

The engineering materials we're researching include 

  • Biomechanical materials
  • Ceramics
  • Woods
  • Metals, alloys and super alloys
  • Composite materials (both conventional and biocomposite and lightweight materials, hybrid composites)
  • Polymers and plastics (thermosets and thermoplastics)


The University's School of Mechanical and Design Engineering is home to our exceptional materials and manufacturing facilities, which include equipment for:

  • Manufacturing (including composite manufacturing, 3-D printing, wire EDM, Waterjet cutting, and CN machining facilities)
  • Testing and characterisation (including thermal properties, and mechanical and nanomechanical testing using nanoindentation and characterisation)
  • Fatigue and corrosion
  • Imaging and damage evaluation

Partnerships and funders

Recent funders for our research include Interreg, SeaBioComp, and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and Innovate UK. We also have consultancy links and have worked on knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) projects with various local and regional companies, including GMD, Formaplex, Magma Global, and KCC.

Recent project highlights include


    Flax composites, LOW weight, End of life and Recycling project

  • SeaBioComp

    Development of demonstrators of durable bio-based composites for a marine environment


    Solution for corrosion detection and monitoring of offshore wind turbine structures

Discover our areas of expertise

Materials engineering is one of our two areas of research expertise in Mechanical Engineering – explore the other, below. 

Biomedical engineering

We're working at the interface of engineering, life sciences and biomedical sciences to deliver research with socioeconomic impact – including health technology and bio-inspired materials.
nanoindentation in the Zeiss Global Centre
Read more

Research groups

Advanced Polymers and Composites Research Group

We're creating new materials to improve manufacturing and sustainability.

Zeiss Global Lab

We're researching the competence of biological structures, biomaterials, and bio-inspired engineering materials using advanced X-Ray microscopy.

Biomedical Engineering Research Group

We're researching how to better understand the body through imaging and biomechanics.

Materials Design and Characterisation Research Group

We're researching new alloys and the analysis of existing advanced materials.

Interested in a PhD in Mechanical & Design Engineering?

Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Mechanical & Design Engineering postgraduate research degrees page.