MEng Aerospace Engineering / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Composites and Polymers

Course unit fact file
Unit code MECH40102
Credit rating 15
Unit level Level 4
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Composite materials are finding increasing application in various engineering fields due to its 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 polymer 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;
3. Understand a range of polymer composite materials and typical manufacturing processing techniques.


1. Introduction to composite materials
Describes what are composite materials, their characteristics, advantages/disadvantages and applications.
2.  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. Explain how to predict the effective material properties of composites based on its constituents.
3. 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.
4.  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 and model the progressive damage in composites. Discuss the failure mechanisms of composites.
5.  Composite laminate design
Introduce the general design rules, how to use Carpet Plot method and perform laminate design via an example.
6.  Finite element modelling of composites
Explain how to model composite laminated structures, introduce shell element, how to define material orientations, how to use symmetry, etc.
7.  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.)
8.  Manufacturing processes of polymer matrix composites.
Introduce major technological processes including open mould processes, pultrusion, filament winding, vacuum bag, resin transfer, vacuum infusion, pressure moulding. Thermoforming, blow moulding and injection moulding of polymers. Show the processes relative and their advantages and limitations, discuss process parameters and mechanisms and how to optimise these processes; practical applications.
Coursework project: Design and analysis of a composite tube
This can be an individual or group project.  The project is to design a composite tube which needs to satisfy safety requirement under different loadings.  Optimum ply orientation angles should be achieved to meet a special deformation requirement.  It is aimed that students will reinforce their understanding of the mechanics of composite materials and structure, and the design analysis procedure through this project.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 80%
Report 20%

Feedback methods

Collective feedback in class

Comments on report

Feedback form

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 31
Project supervision 6
Tutorials 5
Independent study hours
Independent study 108

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Zhenmin Zou Unit coordinator

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