Composite structural sandwich beams: material development and design methodology for optimal static and dynamic characteristics - QC-092

Preferred Disciplines: PhD or postdoc, Mechanical engineering, Material engineering, Civil Enegineering
Company: N/A
Project Length:  8 months
Desired start date: ASAP
Location: Sherbrooke, QC
No. of Positions: 1
Preferences: N/A

About the Company: 

The project is from a Canadian (province of Quebec) company active in the field of renewable energy and solar industrial heat and processes. The company develops and manufactures systems sold around the world.

Project Description:

Large optical collectors are at the center of the solar concentrated power industry. In the parabolic mirror technology, the large reflective surface is submitted to various load conditions that have a direct impact on the optical efficiency of the installation. Over the last decades, several mirror approaches have been designed from complex space frame to simpler torque tube structure. With accelerated market development and relentless cost pressure, new approaches like sandwich beams are being explored to meet current market and technology requirements.

The performance of the optical system of a sun tracking mirror is bounded by physical and technical limits, transport consideration and economic conditions. All classes of boundary conditions are being investigated.


  • Identify and validate the main forces impacting the optical intercept factor of a parabolic collector. This includes internal (ex.: motor torque) and external (ex.:wind) factors.
  • Identify the flexural and torsional stiffness required by the optical analysis.
  • Review state of the art beam construction and identify a first round of options based on a cost-performance analysis and transportation-installation scenarios.
  • Establish and describe the main critical dimensions of the collector. The dimensions could be used as input parameters in a finite element analysis to validate the stiffness requirement.
  • Review and rate the sensitivity of other design items like fatigue strength, effect of temperature and humidity or corrosion resistance.
  • Support the engineering team in charge of adhesive and core selection of the sandwich beam construction.

Research Objectives:

  • Material engineering: the first goal is to better understand the principles underlying the beam characteristics and to use this knowledge to develop a structure with improved static and dynamic characteristics. This might include a survey of failure mechanisms. The second goal is to optimize the beam structure in its working environment and the way it is used with the tracking system.
  • Test and characterization: The main goal is to develop a test program where physical characteristics can be extracted from test data and used as inputs parameters in the related models of the research program.
  • Numerical methods: the goal is to get an overview of the different numerical simulation methods that are available and identify a methodology that can be used as a general design tool and guideline


  • Literature review, summary and state of the art identification
  • Model survey and applicability validation
  • Analytical, iterative or model based equation solving
  • Test bench design
  • Model experimentation and validation
  • Documentation and toolset elaboration

Expertise and Skills Needed:

  • Material science
  • Computer model (finite element analysis)
  • Prototyping and benchmarking
  • Experimental data collection
  • Troubleshooting
  • Team work
  • Communications skills

For more info or to apply to this applied research position, please

  1. Check your eligibility and find more information about open projects.
  2. Complete this webform. You will be asked to upload your CV. Remember to indicate the title of the project(s) you are interested in and obtain your professor’s approval to proceed!
  3. Interested students need to get the approval from their supervisor and send their CV along with a link to their supervisor’s university webpage by applying through the webform or directly to Simon Bousquet,