National Physical Laboratory

Continuum Modelling

Continuum modelling at NPL is used to calculate material properties from first principles, and to simulate experiments and equipment to support applications across the full range of NPL's measurement activity.

Our work on calculation of continuum properties includes use of chemical thermodynamic and thermophysical modelling to predict phase diagrams and bulk thermophysical properties of a wide range of materials (e.g. alloys, oxides, molten salts gaseous and aqueous phases), and multiscale modelling to link the atomistic and continuum worlds.

We simulate experiments using a variety of numerical approximation techniques (including finite element analysis) to design equipment, to enable metrologists to gain a better understanding of their measurement processes, and to provide an understanding of how the uncertainties associated with their experiment may affect their measurement result.

In addition to our underpinning research, our current modelling work includes support for projects in the following areas:

  • Nanostrain:
    Development of analytical and finite element models to evaluate the properties of thin piezoelectric films from experimentally measured values.
  • Fuel cells:
    Development of a comprehensive multiphysics model of fuel cell performance, based on non-equilibrium thermodynamics and incorporating mass and heat transfer with electrochemical kinetics.
  • Catalysis:
    Finite element simulation of electrochemistry near electrodes and catalytic particles. The simulation accounts for diffusion, chemical reactions and interaction with electric fields.
  • Corrosion:
    Implementation of a model for hydrogen transport and trapping within crystalline materials to support understanding of hydrogen induced cracking. Simulation of pit growth and pit-to-crack transition to develop an understanding of crack development.
  • Micro-bubbles:
    Simulation of microbubble deformation in complex pressure fields to enable interpretation of measured acoustic signals.
  • Dielectric measurement:
    Development of an analytical model of the characteristics of a coplanar waveguide with thin active layers, to support determination of the properties of the active layers.


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