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MSc Mechanical Engineering Design / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Composites and Polymers

Unit code MACE61029
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Division (L5)
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit detail provides the framework for delivery in 20/21 and may be subject to change due to any additional Covid-19 impact.  Please see Blackboard / course unit related emails for any further updates.

Composite materials are finding increasing application in various engineering fields due to their advantages over conventional structure materials.  This unit covers a wide range of topics on composite materials and polymers, including materials, manufacturing techniques and mechanics of composite materials and structures. The intended learning outcomes are focussed on the basic knowledge of composites and understanding of the design and analysis of composite structures and manufacturing.

The unit will enable students to consider the options of using composites and make a reasonable choice of composites for new design purposes taking account of appropriate manufacturing process. Students will develop skills for the design and analysis of advanced engineering composite structures (aerospace, naval, automotive, etc) in the future.


For students to:

  1. Describe the concept of composites and their applications in engineering;
  2. Use basic principles and means for design and analysis of simple structures made of composites;

Familiarise with a range of typical manufacture processing techniques.


  1. Introduction to composite materials

Describes what are composite materials, their characteristics, advantages/disadvantages and applications.

  1. Mechanical behaviour of composite material

Review isotropic elasticity.  Explains the material behaviour of composites:  stress-strain relationship, elastic engineering constants, stiffness in any direction, mechanics of lamina.

  1. Mechanical behaviour of composite laminate

Derive the constitutive law for composite laminate, discuss the stiffness of composite laminate, explain how to perform stress analysis of laminate. Reveal how the fibre orientation angle and ply stacking sequence affect the laminate stiffness and strength.

  1. Failure of composite materials and structures

Introduce two widely used failure criteria for composites: Maximum stress and Tsai-wu criteria, explain how to apply them to failure analysis of composites.  Introduce the method how to model the progressive damage initiation and propagation in composites.

  1. Micromechanics of composite materials

Explain how to predict the effective material properties of composites based on its constituents, discuss the failure mechanisms of composites.

  1. Composite laminate design

Introduce the general design rules, how to use Carpet Plot method and perform laminate design via an example.

  1. Materials

Introduce the concept of polymer, classification, bonding and structure, major thermo-physical properties. Discuss processing technologies; classify the types of fibres/mats/reinforcements (glass, carbon, graphene, kevlar, natural fibres, etc.)

  1. Manufacturing processes of polymer matrix composites.

Introduce m

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Report 100%

Feedback methods

Collective feedback in class

Comments on report

Feedback form

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33
Project supervision 19
Tutorials 3
Independent study hours
Independent study 95

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Zhenmin Zou Unit coordinator

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