When state-of-the-art meets the classics – ECCM18 in Athens

When state-of-the-art meets the classics – ECCM18 in Athens

5th July 2018

By Denis Dalli


My name is Denis Dalli and I am an ICONIC-affiliated PhD student based at Queen’s University Belfast. The 18th edition of the European Conference on Composite Materials (ECCM18), held in Athens’ Megaron International Conference Centre on 24-28th July 2018, offered a good mixture of interesting presentations on the current hot topics in composites research, attracting around a thousand participants from both academia and industry.

My trip started on Sunday, 24th July 2018, when our Advanced Composites Research Group from Queen’s University Belfast travelled to Athens. 11 members made it to the conference, making us the largest composite group representation at the conference. Our presentations during the week were varied in nature, with multi-facetted research interests including nano-scale composite reinforcements, auxetic material development and woven composite damage modelling, to name a few. My own presentation focussed on experimental characterisation of woven composites at the macroscale level, specifically the notch radius sensitivity of unstable crack propagation experiments used for determining intralaminar fracture toughness. While trying to settle in and relax before the start of a busy week, my nerves were evident throughout Sunday evening, knowing that I was scheduled to present the following morning, on the first day of the conference.

So Monday morning, after making it through Athens rush hour traffic with the help of a friendly taxi driver, we registered for the conference and went straight to the main hall, the Trianti. After sitting through the Welcome Spech, mid-way through the first plenary talk on the current state of composites and the direction to take in their future development, I suddenly realised my presentation would be in this same hall, an hour later. Quite nerve-racking when considering there were a few hundred attendees already seated.

Fortunately enough, my time to present approached fast enough, and a few presentations later, it was my turn to take the stage. On the whole it went quite well, and even though my feet were trembling, I managed to deliver my presentation clearly and calmly.

That day and the following three passed quite quickly, with many interesting sessions of presentations. Personally, I found the simulation and testing topics the most interesting, specifically when concerning my research interest in fracture and damage. These sessions included: multiscale modelling, for both unidirectional and woven fibre composites; damage modelling of composites at various scales and strain rates; experimental characterisation of composites and their constituent materials; and experimental crushing, impact and blast loading of composite laminates.

The presentations themselves were not the sole contributors to this successful conference. The ample coffee breaks between sessions provided me with the opportunity to network with other students and researchers from various institutions, as well as industrial representatives from both material and equipment suppliers, and experts from the automotive and aerospace sectors. These discussions were quite fruitful, helping me gain insight into the different research areas of specific composite groups at other universities. Such conversations usually ended up with ideas for possible collaborative work, through sharing of knowledge, material, experimental equipment and simulation tools.

Overall, the experience at ECCM18 was very fulfilling. A number of social events, such as a student evening reception and a gala dinner, enabled us to enjoy ourselves in a very entertaining and relaxed Mediterranean environment. There was also enough time for our group to visit some of the ancient Greek sites, including the Acropolis, Zeus’s temple, Hadrian’s arch, the Panathenaic stadium and various other landmarks. Both the conference and the city made for an interesting week, and a good break from the office routine, enough to head back to Belfast with a fresh mind and some new ideas and contacts to help along my PhD journey.


Read more about my research work here.