61% of this research was rated world-leading or internationally excellent


Results from REF 2014 highlight the significant growth in research in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Portsmouth since RAE2008. They reflect the strategic staff recruitment and development that have enabled the number of staff included in the submission to increase by 64% when compared to RAE2008.

Our submission was based on four key research themes:

  • Materials and Structural Integrity
  • Biomechanical Engineering
  • Polymer and Composites
  • Thermo-Fluid, Energy and Manufacturing Engineering

which bring together a broad range of expertise at the University of Portsmouth. Importantly, we have made a significant number of new academic staff appointments at all levels in these areas. In doing so we have significantly increased the number of early career researchers; and doubled the number of female staff submitted in comparison to that in RAE2008. This has provided a good foundation for future strategic research planning and development.


  • Ranked third overall out of new universities submitted in this Unit.
  • 61% of our research outputs were rated as either world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • 50% of our research overall was rated as either world leading or internationally excellent.
  • 50% of our impact was rated as having very considerable reach and significance.

Research groups / Research themes

New research themes have been formed in Materials and Structural Integrity, Thermo-Fluid, Energy and Manufacturing Engineering and Biomechanical Engineering, whilst Polymer and Composites has grown to be a distinctive theme of its own. New directions of research are being developed in the studies of aneurysm, soft tissue mechanics and multi-scale modelling of biological systems. Significant strategic investments by the University have been made in research infrastructure, including buildings, facilities and equipment. The key laboratories, such as Mechanical Behaviour of Materials and Advanced Polymer and Composites, have been equipped to offer facilities of international excellence in their capacity, range and quality. During 2011/12, all research laboratories underwent a major refurbishment to meet the increasing demands of new research projects, as well as to upgrade and modernise. A total university investment of over £2.5m represents a significant increase over the last assessment period (£1.1m). In addition, significant investment has been made also on postdoctoral researchers and research bursaries (£850k) from the University and the Faculty Research Fund, the latter being set up specifically to support fundamental research in priority areas. Highlights of the progress include the improved quality of research on specialist topics, as evidenced by the publication of high impact journal papers, and major research funding obtained from RCUK and UK government bodies. Scientific highlights include:

  • The development of a new crack growth criterion based on crack tip mechanics using novel experimental and computational approaches. The work has resulted in the publication of high impact papers (Tong1,3) and international collaborations involving both partners from academia (Huazhong University, China; Ecole Polytechnique, France and the University of Manchester) and industry (Rolls-Royce).
  • Characterisation and modelling of fatigue crack growth in a complex residual stress field due to laser-shock-peening and foreign object damage, work jointed funded by the EPSRC and the MoD and in collaboration with Rolls-Royce, QinetiQ and the University of Manchester, which has achieved significant impact (REF3b, UOP12FOD), as well as high impact papers (e.g. Lupton4).
  • Long-term structural integrity of cemented acetabular replacements using unique experimental facilities and a multi-scale modelling approach. The work was carried out in collaboration with NHS hospitals with significant impact on surgical practice (REF3b, UOP12ORTHOPAEDIC), as well as high impact papers (Tong4; Tozzi1; Lupton1-3; ZhangQH1).

Impact case studies

Improved creep-fatigue-oxidation resistance in gas turbine disc materials

Research at Portsmouth has significantly improved the understanding of damage tolerance under creep-fatigue-oxidation conditions experienced in aero-engine components. The understanding has been developed through research on a new-generation disc materials including U720Li and RR1000, which have since been used in Rolls-Royce engines including Trent 900 in Airbus A380, Trent 1000 in Boeing 787 and the latest Trent for Airbus A350 XWB. These new materials have enabled aircraft to operate more efficiently at higher temperatures, with a major impact on CO2 emission and a significant impact on economy due to the new market opportunities and the reduction of operating costs.

Improved service life management of safety critical aero-engine components subject to foreign object damage

Research at Portsmouth has had a major impact on risk reduction, improved service life and reduced inspection/maintenance costs of safety critical and expensive fan and compressor components in military and civil aero-engines, as demonstrated particularly by the Liftfan Blisk manufactured by Rolls-Royce.

The research outcomes have also impacted on the specification of design stress levels by Rolls-Royce and MOD for aerofoils susceptible to FOD, enabling damage size inspection limits to be established at higher and more economic levels. The research has also provided increased confidence in the application of weld-repair of FOD and of surface treatment using Laser Shock Peening against FOD.

Improved surgical practice through engineering research

Long-term fixation integrity is a critical issue in joint replacement surgery that affects both quality of life of patients and the economy. The unique comprehensive study of long-term acetabular cement fixation carried out at the University of Portsmouth has significantly informed orthopaedic surgeons and impacted on their surgical practice. In addition, research on a commercial hydrogel implant TRUFIT has informed clinical and commercial decisions on the use of the implant for load bearing applications, which has led to the withdrawal of the implant from the global market.

Infrastructure and facilities

The provision of research facilities is often a vital factor in decisions taken, especially by relatively new staff, on research directions and projects. We have made significant commitment to improving the range and the quality of our facilities. During 2011/12, all research laboratories in the Unit underwent a major refurbishment to meet the increasing demands of new research projects, as well as to upgrade and modernise. The total university investment in the area is over £2.55m and includes building/infrastructure (£1.85m) and equipment (£700k), representing a considerable increase in investment over the last assessment period (£1.1m in RAE2008). The development of a Biomechanical testing suite, including a latest microCT with in situ loading facilities; an upgraded electrodynamic shaker system for nonlinear biodynamics analysis and new facilities for Thermo-Fluid and Energy Engineering are amongst the highlights of the new facilities. More recently, a further £300k was invested to support further development in Thermo-Fluid and Energy Engineering and Biomechanical Engineering research. These investments have been vital in developing cutting edge research such as image-guided failure assessments in complex structures/interfaces (Tozzi1; Lupton1,2; Tong4) or new research such as soft tissue response to vibration (Huang). The new facilities have also allowed effective interactions and collaborations both within UoP and beyond, most notably collaborations with Cranfield University (Dr Zioupos) on the prediction of vertebral fracture due to impact and vibration (Tong, ZhangQH, Huang); and collaboration with the University of Bologna (Prof Cristofolini) on novel cementing techniques in vertebral augmentation (Tozzi). Within UoP, collaborations have been developed with Biomedical Sciences (Prof Gorecki) on microCT studies of muscular dystrophy (Tong, Tozzi, Lupton); and on gene function in development (Tong, Tozzi) using Xenopus model (Prof Guille). Preliminary results from the former is being prepared for a letter to Nature, with a joint bid planned for RCUK in the near future. The new vibration suite has allowed collaboration with Universities of Southampton (Dr Ferguson) and Sheffield (Dr Manson, Prof Worden) and Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) on nonlinear biodynamics and modelling base-excited interface human soft tissue in response to shock and vibration (Huang).

Although some of the investments have yet to come to fruition in terms of research income, good progress has been made on several fronts with high quality outputs from the key areas of research, particularly in Materials and Structural Integrity and Biomechanical Engineering. During the REF period, major awards have been obtained from the EPSRC, TSB, the Royal Society and The Leverhulme Trust.

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