Duration: Sept 2011 to Sept 2015


  • Researcher: David Grogan (PhD student)
  • Supervisors: Prof. Sean. Leen, Prof. Conchúr Ó Brádaigh (UCC)
  • Academic Collaborator(s): Dr. Patrick McGarry
  • Technical Team: Mr William Kelly, Mr Pat Kelly
  • Industrial partners: ÉireComposites Teo, Airbus Defence and Space
  • Funding source: Irish Research Council (IRC) NPI with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Irish Centre for Composites Research (ICOMP)


In order to substantially reduce launch costs, the next generation of reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) must offer significant weight savings over current designs. The development of light-weight cryogenic fuel tanks using advanced materials is key to achieving this goal. Carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRP) are one of the prospective material families being investigated for use in these tanks. The extreme cryogenic thermo-mechanical loading that these structures experience can lead to damage build-up in the CFRP in the form of microcracking and delamination, which can lead to permeation of fuel through the tanks walls. In order to understand and predict the performance of these composite structures, new modelling techniques are necessary.  This research aims to address the micro-damage effects of the launch vehicle fuel on thermoplastic linerless cryogenic tanks through a combined experimental and numerical approach for predicting damage and permeability in composites.


Damage and permeability in linerless composite cryogenic tanks


  • Grogan D.M., Leen S.B., Semprimoschnig C.O.A. & Ó Brádaigh C.M. Modelling of thermal and mechanical fatigue delamination growth in composites using XFEM. The 12th International Symposium on Materials in the Space Environment, ISMSE 2012; Noordwijk; Netherlands, 2012.
  • Grogan D.M., Leen S.B. & Ó Brádaigh C.M. An XFEM-based methodology for fatigue delamination and permeability of composites. Composite Structures, 107, 205-218, 2014.
  • Grogan D.M., Leen S.B., Semprimoschnig C.O.A. & Ó Brádaigh C.M. Damage characterisation of cryogenically cycled carbon fibre/PEEK laminates. Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, 66, 237-250, 2014.
  • Grogan D.M., Ó Brádaigh C.M. & Leen S.B. A combined XFEM and cohesive zone model for composite laminate microcracking and permeability. Composite Structures, 120, 246-261, 2015.
  • Grogan D.M., McGarry J.P., Ó Brádaigh C.M. & Leen S.B. Damage and permeability in tape-laid thermoplastic composite cryogenic tanks. Composites Part A: Applied Science and Manufacturing, 2015 (In press).