This includes Dr Soraia Pimenta of Imperial College London who is studying Novel carbon-fibre composites for large scale and sustainable applications.

The fellowships provide outstanding researchers with financial support and mentoring for five years to enable them to establish independent careers in research.

Dr Pimenta is working on a new family of composites, called multiscale discontinuous composites (MDCs) in which the reinforcement is composed of discontinuous, randomly oriented bundles of fibres, particularly carbon, recycled or natural fibres, called generally discontinuous fibre composites (DFCs).

Using discontinuous reinforcement allows these materials to be moulded into complex shapes and production automated, making MDCs cost- and time-efficient. The multiscale architecture, with fibres clustered in bundles rather than dispersed in the matrix, allows large amounts of fibre to be incorporated into the final material, which improves the mechanical properties of MDCs.

Despite the outstanding manufacturability, the non-regular structure of DFCs makes it difficult to design and predict their response to mechanical loading and other forces. However, when fully understood and optimised, DFCs could replace steel and aluminium in automotive construction and even compete with the composites currently used in aerospace, lowering both manufacturing costs and environmental impact.

Dr Pimenta is developing mathematical models to assist engineers in designing and predicting the behaviour of structures manufactured with new MDCs. Her new models will also help to understand and optimise the mechanical properties of this new family of composites.

Professor Ric Parker CBE FREng, Director of Research and Technology, Rolls-Royce Group, and Chair of the Academy's Research and Secondments Committee, said: “Innovation is crucial to keep the UK ahead of its competitors in today’s highly competitive globalised market, and it is thanks to the work of outstanding researchers such as the recipients of this year’s Research Fellowships that the country can develop and maintain a technological advantage.”