These are to support the European aerospace industry in meeting demanding emissions targets. Policymakers and regulatory bodies require the aerospace industry in Europe to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 50 per cent and nitrous oxide emissions by 80 per cent by 2020.

Dr Alicia Kim from our Department of Mechanical Engineering will lead five year EPSRC-funded research under the Fellowship for Growth programme. The project will be carried out with a number of national and international research partners including Airbus, NASA Langley, Stirling Dynamics and Stanford University.

Dr Kim said: “In order to meet drastic demands and ensure affordable air travel in the future, it is essential that aircraft are made lighter and use minimal fuel. The aerospace research community recognises the need to make a dramatic performance improvement and is considering several new aircraft concepts that move away from the conventional configurations.

“A wing is a highly complex structure to design as it needs to consider the complex interaction between aerodynamics and structural behaviour. The current design practice is therefore very much based on using previous successful design data. So there is a significant challenge if we’re to depart from conventional aircraft as there is limited successful historical design data that is applicable to new concept aircraft.”

Significant progress has been made in new aerospace designs, including a recent development in the computational modelling of aircraft materials. Dr Kim explained: “Using this new technology, research teams like ours can design new advanced materials in half the time that traditional material development took - making aircraft materials innovation much more cost-effective and reducing the product-to-market lead time.”

Dr Kim will spend her fellowship developing sophisticated new computational methods that will allow the design of aircraft configurations and materials that have not been considered before. Dr Kim said: “This fellowship will allow me to determine the best combination of advanced material and structure configuration, and therefore design an optimum aircraft wing to support different flight missions.”

The UK has 17 per cent of the global aerospace market share with revenue of £24 billion, and aerospace is responsible for 3.6 per cent of national employment. With the international civil aerospace market forecast to grow to $4 trillion by 2030, the UK market has the opportunity to grow to $352 billion.

Research like that being carried out by Dr Kim is critical in ensuring that the UK develops its unique capability, while maintaining and growing its market share in these high value products. With the weight savings made from the optimum use of materials, such research can play a key role in sustainable aircraft design for future generations.

A full list of partners in this research programme is: Airbus, Stirling Dynamics, NASA Langley, Stanford University, the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing at the University of Nottingham, and ACCIS at the Bristol University.