Peter Dunning

Peter Dunning

Tel: (757) 864-5852peter dunning bg


Research Interests

  • Structural topology optimization
  • Level-set method
  • Aeroelastic optimization
  • Optimization under uncertainty


  • Ph.D. (2011), Mechanical Engineering, University of Bath, UK (Thesis)
  • MEng. (2007), Aerospace Engineering, University of Bath, UK

Current Research

Topology Optimization of a 3D wing box

The main objective of this project is to develop an aeroelastic topology optimization tool to design the internal structure of an aircraft wing, in support of NASA’s subsonic fixed wing project. The project will use topology optimization to explore novel structural configurations that can meet the ambitious structural efficiency goals of fixed wing project.

To obtain novel configurations, a 3D topology optimization method is used so that the design space includes all possible structures within the wing box space. Therefore, the design is not restricted by any pre-determined layout, such as spar and rib positions. A level set topology optimization method is used to produce solutions with clearly defined boundaries. A key aspect of this project is to develop robust and efficient schemes to solve level set problems on unstructured grids. Another important aspect is the aeroelastic coupling, which must be included in both the analysis and optimization of the wing structure to model and optimize aeroelastic effects, which can lead to more efficient structural designs.

Level set based topology optimization

This project aims to improve the flexibility of level set based optimization methods. These methods are a relatively new development in the area of topology optimization. They offer an alternative to element-based methods, such as SIMP. The main advantage of level set based methods over SIMP is that solutions always have a clearly defined boundary. This means that solutions are often easier to interpret for manufacturing and can handle problems where a clearly defined boundary is important. However, there are several challenges, including: accurate and efficient sensitivity computation, automatic hole insertion, convergence speed and constraint handling. The first three challenges have been addressed in various ways. However, a robust method for handling general constraints is still lacking. Another desirable feature of level set based methods that is currently lacking is the inclusion of additional design variables beyond the topology of the structure. Solutions for both these key issues: general constraint handling and additional design variables, are the goal of ongoing research.

Recent Publications

  • Dunning, P.D., Kim, H.A., 2013. “Robust Topology Optimization: Minimization of Expected and Variance of Compliance,” AIAA Journal, In press. (DOI: 10.2514/1.J052183)
  • Dunning, P.D., Brampton, C.J., Kim, H.A., 2013. “Multidisciplinary Level Set Topology Optimization of the Internal Structure of an Aircraft Wing,” World Congress on Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization, Orlando FL, May 19-24, 2013.
  • Dunning, P.D., Kim, H.A., 2013. “A new hole insertion method for level set based structural topology optimization,” International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering, 93(1): 118-134. (DOI: 10.1002/nme.4384)
  • Dunning, P.D., Kim, H.A., Mullineux, G., 2011. “Introducing Loading Uncertainty in Topology Optimization,” AIAA journal, 49(4): 760-768. (DOI: 10.2514/1.J050670)
  • Dunning, P.D., Kim, H.A., Mullineux, G., 2011. “Investigation and improvement of sensitivity computation using the area-fraction weighted fixed grid FEM and structural optimization,” Finite Elements in Analysis and Design, 47(8): 933-941. (DOI: 10.1016/j.finel.2011.03.006)
  • Crick, T., Dunning, P., Kim, H., Padget, J., 2009. “Engineering design optimization using services and workflows,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 367(1898): 2741-2751. (DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2009.0035)



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