Structural Composites

LIST is stepping up its research activities to develop the next generation of composite materials. Our aim is to develop these new materials by focusing on their sustainability and recycling, and on unparalleled performance in terms of weight/mechanical properties, while optimising the core aspect of composite materials: fibre-filler/matrix interfaces. The entire development chain is taken into consideration, from the engineering of materials to their manufacture, via design stage optimisation and functional tests.

Research challenges

  • Multiscale characterisation of composite behaviour – development of experimental techniques to characterise the functional behaviour of composites at several scales of observation, from constituents & interfaces to structures.
  • Functional composite interfaces and interphases – development of surface activation and treatment approaches to promote adhesion, integrity and functionality of fibre-matrix interfaces, filament/tape/ply and multi-material interphases.
  • Composite manufacturing processes modelling and engineering – development of computational methods to predict the outcome of composites processing routes and enable quality improvements.
  • Multiscale computational modelling of composite materials & virtual testing – development of advanced numerical analysis approaches and homogenisation methods for micro-, meso- and structural scales, considering material variability and uncertainty.
  • Multidisciplinary composites design optimisation – development of multiscale design tools for composite multi-objective performance.
  • Data-driven composite materials discovering – coupling of machine learning approaches and multiscale modelling to find composite metamaterials with enhanced behaviour.
  • Sustainability and life-cycle of composite materials and structures - development of bio-based composites, structural disassembly and debonding on-demand, as well recycling routes for composites.

Application areas

  • High-performance tyre applications – sustainable and mechanically- improved cord-rubber interfaces for automotive tyres.
  • Enhancing of composites additive manufacturing processes - development 3D-printing technology, improvement of manufacturing quality and exploration of design opportunities.
  • Design and certification of composite structures for aeronautics, automotive and other sectors –robust virtual testing tools to replace experimental testing in the ‘building block’ certification of composite structures, reducing costs and development times.
  • Development of composites ‘Digital Twins’ – combination of advanced characterization techniques, data-driven computational analysis and process modelling to enable digital replicas of composites.
  • Expanding the design space of composite materials – development of multiscale-architected composites with unprecedented behaviour, and ultra-lightweight composites for high-performance material demands.
  • Multifunctional composites engineering – development of composites with (coupled) mechanical, thermal, electrical, sensing and energy harvesting/storage capabilities.
  • Development of new structural design concepts for air transport – combination of new functional composites, additive manufacturing possibilities and data-driven computational design to enable non-conventional aeronautical structural concepts in new markets, e.g. Urban Air Mobility


Research groups

The Structural Composites unit is composed of two RDI groups:

  • The Fibre Composites and Interfaces group: The functional performance of fibre-reinforced composites is function of the characteristics of their constituent materials and architecture, but is specially driven by interface and interphase behaviour at several scales. The main research expertise of this research group is on the development of functional interfaces that will incorporate new generations of multifunctional and ultrahigh-performance composites.
  • The Functional Composites Modelling and Design group: This group combines computational mathematics, computer science, and composite materials science and engineering to i) develop physically-meaningful multiscale design frameworks augmented by data-driven approaches, ii) accelerate development, adoption and use of new composite materials; and iii) increase the fraction of critical design and decisions informed by modelling and simulation.


The Structural Composites Unit has access to the High-Performance Computing facilities within LIST, and to the capabilities of the Composite Manufacturing Platform and of the Materials Characterization and Testing Platform of LIST which include:

  • Processing of composites (Liquid Infusion, Resin Transfer Moulding, Thermoforming, Robotic Filament Winding, IR welding).
  • Microstructural characterization (X-Ray Computed Microtomography, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Atomic Force Microscopy).
  • Multiscale mechanical characterization and testing (Nanoindentation, Universal Testing Machines, Digital Image Correlation).
  • Non-destructive Inspection (Ultrasonic Scanning, CT Scanning).

Key partners


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