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QUB crash test boffins making future transport safer

By Rachel Martin

Researchers in Belfast have developed cutting-edge crash test simulation software which they say could improve the safety of the carbon fibre planes and Formula One cars of the future.

The software allows manufacturers to test how vehicles would withstand an impact, meaning changes can be made to designs to improve safety.

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast say the software could also have implications for future generations of family cars, which they say could one day be made from carbon fibre.

Professor Brian Falzon, head of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen’s, is leading the €4m (£3.4m) EU-funded study. Professor Falzon’s team will work with industry leaders from across Europe, including Bombardier Aerospace Belfast, McLaren-Honda F1 and Fiat to develop safer and more efficient ways to use lightweight carbon fibre composites in their designs.

Engineers are moving away from using traditional metals towards lightweight carbon fibre composites to improve performance and save money through fuel efficiency.

However, rigorous safety testing is required before they can enter service.

Crash testing designs as big as a plane can be costly and limit designers in trying new things.

However, the research will mean aerospace, automotive and rail industries can now test new designs virtually to address safety concerns.

Professor Falzon said the software would also allow scientists to pick up on problems not always be visible — such as internal wing damage on a plane.

He said: “By understanding the failure mechanisms of composite materials such as carbon fibre, we are able to better exploit their unique properties.”

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