The ICCM is the premier international conference in the field of composite materials.

By Mr John Stevenson (Senior Communications Officer), Published

School of Science and Technology PhD student, Villorthan Sunthareswaran, presented his research at the 23rd International Conference on Composites Materials (ICCM), held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, from July 30th to August 4th 2023.

The title of Villorthan’s presentation was ‘Using machine learning and finite element analysis to detect damage in composite structures’.

In his City PhD research in aeronautical engineering, Villorthan is developing an AI-driven approach for monitoring the health of composite structures used in aerospace applications.


Villorthan explains that “in aircraft of all sizes, damage to airframes and other parts of the aircraft will occur naturally as part of the life-cycle.”

He says that in order to avoid critical failure of these parts, “maintenance is carried out on a regular basis which requires time, money and an expert in the field. My colleagues and I are exploring a low-cost alternative which will allow for non-destructive testing to detect damage before it becomes a sizeable safety concern. We are contributing to this field by also utilising machine learning to improve airworthiness”.

Behaviour of materials

“The main benefit to travellers is improved safety and an improved environment, since more insight into the condition of these structures will mean that less materials will be sent to landfill unless they are damaged beyond repair. Furthermore, our research permits us to learn more about how these materials behave, thereby contributing towards the development of smarter, safer materials.”

“To businesses like airline companies this technology will mean less of their assets spending time on the ground, thereby making them more money in the air.”

The ICCM is the premier international conference in the field of composite materials and was first held in 1975 in the cities of Geneva and Boston. Since that time the conference has been held biennially in North American, European, Asian, Oceanic, and African cities.

Supervised for his doctoral studies by Dr Sathiskumar Ponnusami, Villorthan completed his BEng in Aeronautical Engineering (First Class Honours) at City in 2021. In 2022, Villorthan received the Astridge Postgraduate Research Scholarship, awarded by the Institution of Mechanical Engineering (IMechE).