Challenges Announced for the Industrial Maths Virtual Study Group Pilot

Posted on: 07/04/2020

KTN, University of Sussex and University of Bath are hosting a Virtual Study Group pilot on 20 – 23 April. The two industrial challenges are now live.


The aim of the study group is to create a virtual environment for businesses and researchers to collaborate on topics of importance to companies. This initiative is supported by the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences and the Isaac Newton Institute.


The ‘Study Group’ model has proved to be a very effective means of delivering mathematical based problem solving on problems coming from industry or other areas of science. In a standard study group, ‚Äòproblems‚Äô are presented on the first day, teams work on them intensively for several days (usually a week), and then presentations are delivered on the last day, with reports shortly after. It has been shown to be a valuable way of connecting communities and importantly impactful.


At a time where physical collaboration is difficult, the ability for this mechanism to adapt to a virtual environment is to be explored in this pilot VSG. We propose to have two industry challenges (detailed below) and use online collaborative tools to make progress against their objectives over a number of days.

Draft Agenda

Day One – 20 April 2020

09:00 – 09:15 Introduction

09:15 – 09:45 Radial Basis Functions at Large Scale, David Standingford

09:45 – 10:30 Modelling the Stability of Multiphase Resins, Dean Bugg

10:30 – 11:30 Virtual Breakout Groups


For Days Two, Three and Four, the virtual rooms will remain open, and groups will arrange times each day to check in with one another, and once as a whole group.


Day Four – 23 April 2020

12:00 – 13:00 Group Feedback Presentations

Our Challenges

Radial Basis Functions at Large Scale – Zenotech


The Challenge: Zenotech is working on multidisciplinary coupling between computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element structural modelling (FEM) where there are O(1 million) potential control points on the surfaces of the model. The Radial Basis Function (RBF_ is used to deform the surface and the volume. There can be no negative volume cells created.


The length scale of the total model is 10 m. The RBF is representing finite element model modes with normalized amplitudes up to 10cm. There are small gaps of the order of 1 mm in the model that must be respected.


The RBF must be automatically created and then updated on several times through a coupled simulation and this should be rapid. We currently use a Trilinos linear solve distributed over as many processors as the CFD solution (possibly GPUs, or 1000 CPU cores … or higher).


Zenotech are looking for robust and quick methods for mesh morphing around changing geometries.


Modelling the Stability of Multiphase Resins – Scott Bader


The Challenge: There is a drive to improve the energy efficiency of transportation (Rail, Air, Bus, Automotive etc.) and the use of composites can reduce weight and hence decrease the energy consumption. The composite resins used in these applications require flame retardant additives to be added. Historically, halogen containing materials have been used for this purpose; however, there is a trend driven by sustainability and regulations to replace these.


Replacement additives are generally solid materials (fillers) that have a variety of shapes and sizes e.g. spheres, spheroids, plates or needles. It is normal that in low viscosity resins, there is separation of the resins and the additives. Users are required to stir the product before application to ensure consistent resin / filler ratio. Under various transport conditions however (when travelling by road) the filler phase can pack hard, and the required stirring is not always possible.


Scott Bader would like to understand the mechanism by which this happens and hence determine methods of assessing new formulations for filler separation and hard packing.

How to Take Part

Places are limited and will be allocated balancing a first-come-first-served basis and on specific capabilities.

If you:

(a) would like to take part, please contact specifying your capabilities you might wish to bring to one (or both) of the challenges.

(b) have a question you would like ask of the challenges in advance of the VSG, please do contact and we will collate these and their answers on an online forum.

(c) If you are interested to pose a challenge at a future Virtual Study Group, please also get in contact.

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