Joël Serra and the Virtuose project: a revolution in validating composite structures
An engineer who graduated from ISAE-SUPAERO and Cranfield University in 2013, Joël Serra earned his PhD from ISAE-SUPAERO in 2016 with a thesis focused on the mechanics of composite structures completed at Clément Ader Institute in collaboration with Airbus Group Innovations.
He joined ArianeGroup in 2017, where he was put in charge of validating the thermomechanical strength of bolted joints on the future Ariane 6 launcher. Since October 2017 he has been a research engineer at the University of Bristol, working on the modelling of composite structures. In connection with this, Joël Serra is working with Rolls Royce to guarantee the strength of the blades on aircraft engines, which are quite often subjected to in-flight impacts.
Joël Serra’s Virtuose (VIRTUal testing of aerOnautical compoSite structurEs) project was awarded the 1 million euro prize from the Fondation Lopez-Loreta.
While the current methodology for the certification of composite structures (found in the aeronautical industry as well as in the nautical and railway fields) requires many tests today – the certification of the Airbus A350 required some 70,000 of them – Joël Serra’s work is aimed at developing a new validation methodology for these structures, working at an intermediate test specimen scale.
Joël Serra is seeking to enhance the capability of the finite element code developed at the Clément Ader Institute. The goal is to obtain a predictive numerical model that can be used to simulate and validate composite structures with a size of about 50 cm.
The change of scale opens up new outlooks in terms of innovation and technology transfer, as it will make numerical validation of these composite structures possible for difficult scientific issues such as impacts, joints between two wing components, or cracks developing in the materials. This new methodology will also speed up design and production times by 25% while reducing the cost related to the many tests by 20%.
For Joël Serra, receiving this prize is “a wonderful opportunity. This award will enable us to set up a research team by recruiting post-graduate students and research engineers. It is also a good way of recognizing the work carried out in Toulouse at the Clément Ader Institute. This distinction further reinforces the legitimacy of this project, which has notably received support from ISAE-SUPAERO and its Foundation, Airbus, Dassault Aviation, Stelia, Daher and the Aerospace Valley cluster.”