Advanced materials

Validation using finite element analysis

Understanding material performance through modelling 

Finite element analysis (FEA) is a modelling tool that is widely used in the design of new products, as well as for investigation of failure in service and lifetime prediction. Within NPL, FEA is used:

  • to design new equipment and test pieces
  • to gain a deeper understanding of the physical processes that occur during experiments
  • to test assumptions made about equipment or material behaviour
  • to investigate sensitivity of experimental results to environmental and geometric parameters
  • to estimate unknown physical parameters by matching model results to measured data.

We have experience of simulation across many areas of physics, including:

  • acoustics, including nonlinear propagation, transducer simulation, scattering and ultrasonics
  • electromagnetics, from electrostatics to RF scattering
  • linear and nonlinear static and dynamic stress analysis, including contact problems
  • corrosion and damage
  • heat flow, including thermal radiation, phase change, bioheating, stress-induced heating and heating due to ionising radiation
  • chemical engineering, including mass transport, fuel cells, reaction-diffusion and gas mixing
  • MEMS and other small-scale systems

To obtain reliable predictions from FEA, the relevant materials model must be used, along with accurate  data on the properties. We have a wealth of knowledge regarding materials testing, and can ensure that the materials model and properties are fit for the application. We have extensive experience with specialised material models, including piezoelectrics and multiferroics, plastics and adhesives, laminates and composites, and metals. We have developed and implemented our own materials models and are familiar with rate dependent behaviour and creep models.

We offer CAD and mesh development capabilities and have experience linking FE tools with optimisation, sensitivity analysis and uncertainty evaluation routines to automate key steps in the design process.

In addition to our FE capabilities, we have experience with finite difference, finite volume and boundary element techniques. We also have an ongoing interest in emerging techniques such as meshless methods, the extended finite element method and the Lattice Boltzmann method.

Contact us

Lead researcher

Louise Crocker

Senior Research Scientist

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