AWEThe Institute of Shock Physics (ISP) is a multidisciplinary research organisation established in 2008. It is supported by an industrial contract from AWE and with major support from Imperial. The Institute aims to provide a UK focus for fundamental shock physics research to further our understanding of the science of shock waves, ultrafast material phenomena and what happens to matter under extreme conditions. It also educates the next generation of scientists and engineers in shock physics through PhD training, an undergraduate module in hydrodynamics and shocks, a Master’s course, a short course series and many other outreach activities.

Shock physics applications

ISP's Gas Gun facility provides the opportunity to investigate how materials behave under high pressures and temperatures

The research is applied in many ways, including analysing the effect of meteorite impacts on planets, spacecraft and satellites, understanding how tsunamis are formed and understanding the high pressure conditions that occur at the core of planets. Man-made high pressure has aeronautical and national security related applications. These include studies on force protection, understanding how biological materials behave when exposed to shock waves and developing improved energetic materials.

Benefits to Imperial and AWE

AWE funding has enabled Imperial to establish a centre of research and training excellence in shock physics, underpinned by unique capabilities, that were simply not present in the UK five years ago. Benefits to both organisations are:

  • Two-way transfer of technical expertise and equipment
  • AWE provides training on short courses to students and academics, enabling knowledge transfer between Imperial and AWE
  • AWE benefits from access to individuals who have been trained by experts in a world-leading university for collaboration and recruitment
  • AWE interacts with the ISP’s wide network of collaborators providing access to a network of knowledge and technology
  • AWE is able to conduct research in the public domain, enabling joint research publications in peer reviewed journals
  • AWE funding for a PhD on understanding how biological materials behave when subjected to shock waves has enabled the ISP to become part of the Centre for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial, funded by The Royal British Legion. The ISP-led theme is on Blast Force Protection.

Benefits to the wider public

The ISP research enables the development of materials that are better able to withstand forces, leading to safer manufacturing methods, stronger vehicles for civilian and military use, better protection against acts of terrorism and natural disasters, and more reliable satellites.