Advanced Materials and Smart Structures (AMSS)

AMSSThe Advanced Materials and Smart Structures (AMSS) research group is positioned as a unique grouping in the Western Sydney University research landscape: it bases its research in advanced computational simulations for advanced materials and smart structures and it utilises the research strength and computing resources in the School and testing facilities of the University's Institute for Infrastructure Engineering for advanced materials and smart structures applications.

The research projects of AMSS are mainly concentrated in developing analysis and design methods for more cost effective and sustainable advanced materials and smart structures and their applications in mechanical, aerospace, marine and structural engineering. AMSS Staff are conducting their current leading research in developing novel computational mechanics models which are powerful tools for intelligent structural and mechanical designs. They also extend their current efforts toward multiscale modeling and simulation development which will be used to design and develop advanced engineering materials and nanomaterials for smart structural and mechanical engineering applications.

Research Areas

Theme 1: Engineering Materials and Processing Technologies

Nano composite materials and structures

With the rapid progress of advanced nano-material technology, composites reinforced by carbon nanotube fillers have emerged as an alternative answer to the next generation of advanced materials. Unlike their micron scale counterparts, the physical properties of nanocomposites can be altered at an extremely low weight percentage of nanofillers. The concept of functionally graded materials is introduced to the nanocomposites by varying the volume fraction of aligned carbon nanotubes along the thickness direction of the composite beams/plates/shells to create advanced nanocomposites with its material properties being controlled/tailored to meet the requirements of nano/micro electromagnetic (NEM/MEM) devices. It is a challenge to determine the mechanical properties of the new composites and apply the properties to investigate the responses of the composites under various loading conditions. This research studies the properties of carbon nanotube reinforced composite materials and the mechanical responses of structural components made of the new composites. This research will generate new benchmark solutions for the composite structures that will have direct applications in the design of micro sensors/devices to be used in smart structures.

Key people: Yang Xiang , Qinghua Zeng, Yingyan Zhang

Innovative graphene-based thermal interface materials for high performance devices

Continuous miniaturization of electronic devices demands efficient heat removal, making the thermal interface materials (TIMs) in the thermal management an issue of great concern. The performance of TIMs is crucial to the progress and development of innovative electronic devices. The most common TIM is the thermally conductive composites. The present project aims to design innovative graphene-based polymer composite TIMs for the future electronic devices with excellent performance and high reliability. The performance of the graphene-based polymer composites in heat dissipation is closely investigated under different conditions by means of atomistic simulations. Various techniques will be proposed to improve the thermal conductivity (TC) of the composites via mitigating the graphene-polymer interface thermal resistance (also known as Kapitza resistance). This research focuses on: 1) Tailoring the TC of graphene-based polymer composites by monitoring the interface interaction via the modification of graphene structures; 2) Characterizing the TC of polymer composites filled with graphene-based hybrid materials; and 3) Achieving the optimal TC for the composites by manipulating the loading fraction of fillers. The object of this project is to explore and expand the application of the novel nanomaterial-graphene in the thermal management.

Key people: Yingyan Zhang, Yang Xiang, Qinghua Zeng

Functionally graded carbon fibre reinforced composites

Carbon fibre reinforced composites and structures possess remarkable advantages over traditional metal based materials and structures, such as high strength to weight ratio, high stiffness, the ability to resist fatigue and erosion and the non-electromagnetic-conductive nature etc. This type of composites is widely used in aerospace and marine structures due to the aforementioned properties. In order to improve the performance of carbon fibre reinforced composites, the functionally graded material concept was recently introduced into this area. Instead of uniformly distributing the carbon fibres in the matrix, the functionally graded carbon fibre reinforced composites allow the variation of the fibre density along the thickness direction of the composites. The mechanical properties of the new composites can be designed to address engineering requirements such as increasing the natural frequencies, reducing the noise level induced by vibration or increasing the buckling capacity of the composite structures etcThere is an urgent need to fully understand the mechanical properties of the composites due to the new arrangement of carbon fibres in the matrix and the mechanical behavior of the new composite structures under mechanical and/or thermal loadings. This project is to study the mechanical properties of functionally graded carbon fibre reinforced composites with different variations of the fibre distributions and the applications of the new composites in aerospace, mechanical and marine engineering.

Key people: Yang Xiang, Richard Yang

Development of functional nanostructures by self-assembly of nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are key components in the advancement of future energy and environmental technologies. Many nanoparticles have demonstrated unique and tunable optical, electronic, magnetic and chemical properties for important and multifaceted applications. Integrating these nanoparticles into well-defined and ordered structures provides further opportunities for optimizing, tuning, and enhancing the properties and functions of the materials for specific applications. This project aims to improve our capability of the self-assembly of nanoparticles into novel nanostructures for energy and environmental applications.

Key people: Qinghua Zeng, Yingyan Zhang

Sustainable Manufacturing of Metal Sheets

Sustainability and sustainable production is nowadays a wide research field due to the urgency of reducing environmental burdens of industrial production. Due to the relevance to sustainable manufacturing issues for automotive and aeronautical industry, the investigation of sheet metal forming processes sustainability is worth studying and, within this research fields, a certain lack of knowledge is still present. In this project we focus on the evaluation and reduction of environmental burdens in manufacturing, especially on sheet metal forming (i.e. incremental forming and stamping process, etc.) and aim to investigate both the efficient use of materials and process energy savings based on both experimental and numerical data. This project will greatly build up our new research fields in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and fully utilize the metal machining facilities in our School for research purpose, accompanying with our newly-open Mechanical key program.

Key people: Richard Yang, Helen Wu

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Theme 2: Smart Structures and Safety Engineering

Development of intelligent fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) composite systems for engineering structures

Intelligent fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites, in particular in the form of externally bonded laminates, have played a significant role for repairing, strengthening and retrofitting a diversity of engineering structures in aerospace, mechanical and civil engineering. However one of the outstanding hurdles is the poor understanding of durability and reliability in both short and long terms of FRP strengthened structures. This project aims to advance fundamental knowledge and practical algorithms that underpin the development of intelligent FRP composite systems incorporated with smart embedded sensors for self-integrity monitoring and condition assessment, integrating the mechanisms of propagation of ultrasonic guided waves in a multiple layer structural system, structure-property relationships, sensor technology, and benchmark-free damage identification algorithms.

Key people: Richard Yang, Yang Xiang

Condition assessment and rehabilitation of engineering structures

According to the Australian 2010 Infrastructure Report Card, a large proportion of Australia's infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life. The overall result was rated as a C plus, which means that this infrastructure requires major improvements. The catastrophic Minnesota River Bridge collapse in the USA in 2007 highlighted the importance of accurately assessing, maintaining and prolonging the design life of our ageing steel structures. Owing to the fact that ageing steel infrastructure is still in service in Australia and in the world, the proposed topic will make a significant contribution to monitor the structural condition and in protecting the structures and human lives, as well as developing an economic infrastructure asset management scheme.

Key people: Xinqun Zhu, Yang Xiang, Richard Yang

Granular matter modeling and applications

Particles widely encountered in industry and in nature can be either wet or dry and can range in size from nanometres to centimetres; examples are rocks, soils, sand, salt, sugar, mineral ores, agricultural grains and many industrial solids. Particle/powder systems show unique behaviour that is common to all three phases – solid, liquid, and gas. Like other solids, they can withstand deformation and form heaps; like liquids, they can flow; like gases, they exhibit compressibility, and like both fluids and solids, they show different flow regimes. These features give rise to this fourth phase of matter, particle/powder systems, which are yet to be well understood. Understanding and modelling the physics of granular matter has a long history and has been a major research focus worldwide for decades, but there is much yet to discover about this fascinating phenomenon. In contrast with the theories that describe the behaviour of solids, gases and liquids, there is no general theory allowing for the reliable prediction of the behaviour of granular materials, especially for non-spherical particle systems. This project will develop a novel continuum model incorporated with the two controlling mechanisms of granular behaviour, by modelling and understanding the flow of spherical and non-spherical granular materials at different time and length scales.

Key people: Haiping Zhu, Yang Xiang, Yingyan Zhang

Innovative development in composite construction

Composite steel-concrete construction is used extensively in modern buildings and highway bridges for its higher span/depth ratio, reduced deflections and higher stiffness ratio than traditional steel or reinforced concrete construction. In a composite steel-concrete beam, the comparatively high strength of the concrete in compression complements the high strength of the steel section in tension. The fact that each material is used to take advantage of its best attributes makes composite steel-concrete construction very efficient and economical. Further research in composite structures is needed to reflect trends in new high strength steel and high strength concrete materials while at the same time addressing the contemporary issues such as sustainability. Research outcomes will be in current and innovative developments in composite construction which are mainly divided into three areas: 1) the improvement of the concrete such as incorporating the use of nano-material, lightweight and sustainable aggregate or fibre reinforced polymer into the concrete slab; the improvement of the shear connectors with the use of innovative connectors for example Hollo Bolts and Ajax Fasteners are used to replace the commonly used headed shear connectors; and 3) due to developments in steel as a material, high strength or stainless steels are replacing normal strength steels because of their high strength and high corrosion resistance respectively. This project will be carried out to promote the use of composite construction by providing design codes for engineers and develop composite structures for use in sustainable infrastructure through the consideration of new material use and improvements in durability. 

Key people:  Fidelis Mashiri, Ee Loon Tan, Olivia Mirza, Helen Wu

Risk based fire engineering design and assessment

Advancements in engineering and technology have created a greater foundation for risk or performance based approach to fire safety engineering which promotes the development of cost-effective and sustainable designs whilst maintaining protection of life and property in built and natural environment. This project focus on the development of risk based assessment methodology for structure fire safety design. Laboratory and filed data of structure performance at elevated temperatures and building features (ventilation factors, fire load distribution and construction material properties) will be collected for statistical analysis including full descriptions of probability density distribution functions for various design parameters and failure modes. A limiting state function will be established for a multi-variable system, which will allow the search for optimised design satisfying safety, cost-effectiveness and sustainability criteria. Research results in terms of structure and building system performance from Projects 2.4 and other projects of the Research Group can also be incorporated. This project will produce advanced fire safety engineering design and assessment methods with supporting data and software which can be applied to assist in the advancement of building code and the relevant standards for building design and construction.

Key people: Yaping He (lead), Olivia Mirza, Helen Wu

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Professor Yang Xiang joined Western Sydney University in 1996 after a postdoctoral position and PhD study at the University of Queensland. His research expertise is in computational mechanics and engineering materials. He has published papers in top journals and held one ARC DP grant. His journal publications have attracted over 1800 citations and he obtained an H-Index of 23. He has held many administrative and governance posts including Deputy Dean of SCEM (current), Senior Associate Head of School, Acting Chair of Western Sydney University Research Studies Committee, Chair of School Research Committee, member of Western Sydney University Academic Senate etc. He is currently the Vice Chair of the Stability Committee of ASCE Engineering Mechanics Division, an Associate Editor for International Journal of Dynamics and Control and an editorial board member for International Journal of Structural Stability and Dynamics and The Journal of Strain Analysis for Engineering Design. 

A/Prof Richard Yang joined Western Sydney University in January 2012 as Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Smart Structures. Prior to this, Richard held the position of Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, the School of Engineering, Deakin University and also worked for a couple of years each in the University of Sydney (USyd) and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) as post-doctoral research fellow following his PhD study in Mechanical Engineering in the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in 2002. He was awarded the Graduate Certificate for Higher Education by Deakin University in 2008. In research he has been working in computational mechanics for about 15 years, mainly focusing on characterisation of material properties and behaviours via numerical modelling and simulations, including multi-scale modelling of advanced engineering materials and structures, structural health monitoring (SHM) and smart structures, metal forming and manufacturing and metal surface treatment, etc. He has been awarded 2 ARC Linkage grants in roll forming of metal sheets, one ARC LIEF on a hybrid testing facility for structures under extreme loads with his colleagues as well as two competitive overseas research grants, including one Beijing Natural Science Foundation grant (BNSF) on roll forming and one National Science Foundation of China grant (NFSC) on bio-materials with his colleagues from China. As at 2012, he has published about 100 journal/conference papers and confidential reports for industrial partners in his research areas. He is serving as an Australia-based reader for ARC, editor board member, conference committee member and reviewer of international journals and conferences, etc.  

Dr Haiping Zhu joined Western Sydney University in 2009, following a research fellow position at UNSW, and Lecturer and Associate Professor at Peking University in China. He received his PhD degree from Beijing Institute of Technology in 1995. Dr Zhu has been devoted to granular matter, mechanical systems and related processes for many years, and made various significant contributions in both the fundamental and applied aspects of these fields. He has attracted several competitive grants, including one ARC DP grant, one ARC LP grant, one DEST ISLP grant, and others from Chinese governments. He has published one book and over 100 papers in various refereed journals and conference proceedings. He has successfully supervised a number of PhD students. He has served as a reviewer for a number of learned international journals including Mineral Engineering and Powder Technology. 

Dr Xinqun Zhu obtained his PhD from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2001. His research interests are primary in structural dynamics, especially in structural health monitoring and condition assessment, nonlinear behaviour of structures, vehicle-bridge interaction analysis, damage mechanism of concrete structures and smart sensor technology. His significant contribution is condition assessment of civil infrastructure in operational environment. He has published over 135 articles with an H-Index of 15, including 4 books, 66 refereed journal papers, and 63 refereed international conference papers. Dr Zhu has been successful in attracting 5 major research grants in Australia, Hong Kong and China, with a total of approximately AUD $675,000 since 2007. He is currently supervising or co-supervising three PhD students at Western Sydney University. He is a member of American Society of Civil Engineers and on the executive committee for the Australian Network of Structural Health Monitoring, and he is an active reviewer for 20 international journals. 

Dr Qinghua Zeng joined Western Sydney University in 2010 from UNSW where he was a PhD candidate, research associate and ARC postdoctoral and research fellow during 2000-2009. He has made significant contributions to the research, teaching and professional communities throughout his academic career at UNSW and Western Sydney University. He has led a research team in Nanoresearch while working at SIMPAS (UNSW), attracted one ARC Discovery grant, one ARC Linkage grant, one ARC LIEF grant, one DIISR Strategic Research Fund, 2 projects in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Functional Nanomaterials, and a number of internal grants at UNSW and UWS. He has supervised and co-supervised 5 PhD, 2 Master and 3 Honours students (all have graduated). He has published over 70 peer reviewed journal and conference papers, with many in prestigious journals and A*/A ERA ranked journals in Materials Engineering and other Engineering fields. His SCI journal papers have an average of 26 citations and H-Index of 13, currently gaining 150-200 citations per year. He has delivered 11 invited lectures and talks at other universities and organisations, 11 invited speaker addresses and over 40 oral presentations in national and international conferences, meetings, workshops and seminars. He has coordinated and delivered lectures in 6 units in Civil Engineering and other Engineering for undergraduate and postgraduate students. He has also played academic and professional leadership roles, and served and contributed significantly to the professional communities. 

Dr Yingyan Zhang joined Western Sydney University as a research lecturer in 2010. Her research interests include the numerical methods in solid mechanics such as differential quadrature methods, atomistic investigation and continuum modeling of carbon-based nanomaterials. She has published one scholarly book, two book chapters, and 32 journal papers with 83% ERA A/A* ones. Since 2007, her publications have been cited for 585 times with 526 non-self citations. She obtained an H-Index of 14. 

Dr Yaping He joined Western Sydney University in 2004 after his postdoctoral position in Victoria University and his service in industry. His research expertise is in the area of fire safety science and engineering in built and natural environment. He has published more than 70 refereed journal and conference papers and three book chapters. He supervised and co-supervised 4 PhD students. Dr He is a winner of the prestigious Jack Bono Award in fire protection engineering. He is a member of editorial boards of three journals, committee member of the International Association for Fire Science, and Vice President of the Asia-Oceania Association for Fire Science and Technology. 

Dr Fidelis Mashiri joined Western Sydney University in 2009. Prior to that, he was a Lecturer at the University of Tasmania (2006-2008) and a postdoctoral research fellow at Monash University (2001-2006). His research expertise is in fatigue of welded connections and composite structures. He has an H-Index of 7. He currently holds an ARC DP (2012-2014). Dr Mashiri is a member of the Institution of Engineers (Australia) and is also currently a member of the Australian Standard Committees on Steel Structures, BD-001 and Cold-Formed Steel Structures, BD-082. 

Dr Helen Wu joined Western Sydney University in 2012. She has more than ten years experience in consulting companies. One of the companies she worked for is Hyder Consulting, a multi-national consultancy. She has been involved in conceptual, detailed design and implementation of tests on many projects related to the dynamic response of materials, machines and structures including vibration and condition monitoring. She has expertise in conducting full scale measurements and analyses of civil engineering structures such as bridges, railway tracks, tunnels, and buildings. An interesting project in which Helen was a project manager was to conduct full scale vibration measurements of 'Burj Khalifa Dubai' (the tallest building in the world) during various stages of construction of the building. She participated in the design of a vibration monitoring system to monitor the building movement induced by wind and possible future earthquake attacks. Helen was also involved in the project of the Epping to Chatswood Rail Link (ECRL) during design and construction stages. 

Dr Olivia Mirza came to Australia in 2000 on a full scholarship to undertake her Bachelor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UNSW. While she was studying, she worked with Leighton Contractors for a year as a student engineer. After her 2002 graduation, Olivia was offered a Design Engineer position at Australian Consulting Engineers, where she worked for 4 years. To further her prospects, she joined the Cardno Group for a year until she was offered to do a PhD in 2006 with BlueScope Lysaght under the supervision of Professor Brian Uy at Western Sydney University. Her PhD was titled "Behaviour and Design of Headed Stud Shear Connectors on Composite Steel-Concrete Beams". Once her PhD was completed, she was offered a position as Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Western Sydney University with an ARC Linkage Project in conjunction with the University of Melbourne and two industry partners (AJAX Fastener and Australia Tube Mills). 

Dr Ee Loon Tan joined the School of Engineering at Western Sydney University as a Lecturer in February 2011 after he received his PhD degree from the Western Sydney University in 2010. His PhD was titled:"The effects of partial shear connection on composite steel-concrete beams subjected to combined flexure and torsion." Previously, he graduated from University of New South Wales with both a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering and a Master degree in Structural Engineering from 1999 – 2004. During his studies, he worked for CPG Corporation Pte Ltd (Singapore) as an Engineering Trainee in the Civil and Structural Engineering Division from 2001 – 2002. Furthermore, he held a position as a Research Assistant to assist in an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project from 2009 – 2011 in Western Sydney University under the supervision of Professor Brian Uy.