“There’s been a lot of good press from the science community on self-assembly of atoms. Well, I guess what I’m looking for is self-assembly and disassembly of large-scale structures…There is all sorts of exciting things we can do when [engineering] structures re-configure themselves.” — Prof. Paul Weaver

This episode features Prof. Paul Weaver, who holds a Bernal Chair in Composite Structures at the University of Limerick in Ireland, and is the Professor in Lightweight Structures at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. Lightweight design plays a crucial role in the aerospace industry, and Paul has worked on some fascinating concepts for more efficient aircraft structures. Paul’s research has influenced analysis procedures and product design at NASA, Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Augusta Westland Helicopters, Vestas (and many more), and in this episode we cover some of his past accomplishments and his vision for the future.

Central to this vision is artificial metamorphosis, which is a term that Paul coined to describe structures that re-configure by dis-assembly and re-assembly to adapt and optimise on the fly. Although Paul thinks that this vision of engineering structures is still 50 years into the future, he is well known for his work on a related technology: topological shape-morphing. The simplest example of a morphing structure is a leading edge slat, which is used on all commercial aircraft today to prevent stall at take off and landing. Paul, on the other hand, envisions morphing structures that are more integral, that is without joints and which do not rely on heavy actuators to function. Apart from artificial metamorphosis, Paul and I discuss

  • his teenage dreams of becoming a material scientist
  • his work with Mike Ashby at Cambridge University on material and shape factors
  • interesting coupling effects in composite materials that can be used for elastic tailoring
  • his work with Augusta Westland helicopters on novel rotor blades
  • why NASA contacted him about his research on buckling of rocket shells
  • and much, much more

I hope that you get a feel for Paul’s enthusiasm for aerospace engineering, and if you enjoy these conversation and want to support the podcast, then I would appreciate a review on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever else you are tuning-in.

Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Prof. Paul Weaver!

Selected Links from the Episode


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