Case Study 6: Cost-effective simulation and prediction of explosions for military and public safety, and for improved oil extraction
Submitting InstitutionUniversity of Leeds
Unit of AssessmentMathematical Sciences
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Mathematical Sciences: Applied Mathematics
Information and Computing Sciences: Artificial Intelligence and Image Processing, Computation Theory and Mathematics
Summary of the impact
The Leeds unit's MoD-funded research programme in hypervelocity impact
dynamics has: saved the MoD two years in ballistic development and
£1.5m-£2m in costs; guaranteed robustness and reliability of MoD
computations; enabled the MoD to deliver advanced research output cost-
effectively under severe budgetary pressures; continued to underpin a £4m
annual income for the MoD's War Technology consultants QinetiQ;
provided the MoD with a world-leading explosion- simulation capability.
MoD codes underpinned by the Leeds research have, during the REF period,
led to a reduction in front-line casualties of British Forces in
Afghanistan and Iraq, and enabled government agencies to make quantifiable
assessments of threats to transport and public-building infrastructure,
e.g. in the planning of the 2012 Olympic Games. QinetiQ have used the
codes with industry to develop a new explosive perforator for oil
extraction that has: "halved the R&D process, time-to-market and
cost of oil-well exploitation"; improved oil flows by 30-40% in
tests undertaken by oil companies, and; yielded substantial (but
confidential, see §4e) recurrent licensing royalties.
Between the mid-1980s and 2000, MoD Fort Halstead - formerly RARDE, DRA
and DERA; now QinetiQ - funded a research programme [5,6] in Applied
Mathematics at Leeds on the simulation of hypervelocity impacts;
specifically, the pitting of supersonic-aircraft windscreens by airborne
water droplets, and the penetration of vehicular armour by ballistic
weapons. The research improved the MoD's existing simulations, which
suffered "significant limitations" [B], on two fronts: (a)
deficient modelling of the underlying physics, and; (b) restricted
computational capability due to inefficient algorithms and insufficient
memory. While the MoD addressed "(a)" in-house through improved material
models, "(b)" was addressed by the Leeds research group through the
development of innovative computational strategies that delivered improved
- that is, more efficient and stable - simulation capabilities using
reduced computational resources. These strategies were successfully
incorporated into the MoD's ballistic-simulation software-development
programme, and subsequently used by QinetiQ to generate impact through the
diverse applications (presented in §4) in military, private and
industrial (oil-extraction) sectors.
Personnel ( all Leeds-based)
The MoD research group in Leeds' Department of Applied Mathematics
comprised (the late) Professor F A Goldsworthy (SRF, 1993-1996), Dr S B
Maunder (PDRF, 1993-1998) and Professor M A Kelmanson (permanent staff,
1993-present). From 1995-2000, Kelmanson was Project Manager, the MoD
equivalent of P.I., in which role he was sole supervisor of Dr U Mullane
(PDRA, 1994-1995) and Dr D Wilson (PDRA, 1996-1999) on MoD grants
totalling £160k [5,6].
Publications and Research Outputs
Research outputs from the programme were almost exclusively in the format
of regular, contractually required, substantial MoD Working Papers
which, designated as "Restricted", were circulated within only MoD
establishments. Kelmanson wrote four such papers (and his PDRAs nine) of
which  underpins most directly the impact of the research. Submission
to peer-reviewed international journals was occasionally possible
following extensive MoD internal vetting; in this context, papers [2,3]
emanated from two of Kelmanson's Working Papers. The "significant
journal paper" [A] by Kelmanson and Maunder  (the primary paper
of this case) summarises the main research of the Leeds group between 1993
Optimization of Computational Resources
Needing to undertake "significantly more complex and larger
simulations" [B], the MoD funded the Leeds group to undertake
research into adaptive techniques, whose distinctive strength,
absent from standard approaches, is their inherent ability to resolve
phenomena occurring contemporaneously over widely disparate length
scales. That is, at a given time, adaptive techniques allow physical
activity to be simulated on a hierarchy of co-existing, unstructured,
"coarse-to-fine" computational grids. Adaptive techniques therefore
automatically concentrate/divert computational resources into/from regions
where there is physical activity/quiescence (or geometrical
complexity/simplicity); this optimizes the efficiency of simulations since
detailed computations occur only where necessary - as defined by
pre-specified adaption criteria. In addition, adaptive grids admit
automatic and dynamic grid refinement and coarsening in
response to the evolving physics, making the techniques versatile,
flexible and computationally cost-effective, since computer memory is
dynamically released back into the system when and where high resolution
is no longer required. The Leeds group's research and development
[1,2,3,4] culminated in the implementation and validation of a fully
automated dynamically adaptive technique that was embedded into the MoD's
simulation capability, known as "GRIM", for subsequent use in military,
civilian and industrial applications.
Validation of the Research
The computational efficiency of Leeds' adaptive techniques was quantified
in  through application to test ballistic-penetration problems,
supplied by the MoD, on: (i) the simulated penetration of protective
armour by a hypervelocity rod, and; (ii) the simulated implosion of a
spherical shell (for which there is an analytical solution). In , it is
demonstrated that Leeds' methods require respectively only 15% and 25% of
the memory and CPU of the equivalently resolved non-adaptive techniques
applied to the same computationally intensive test problems. Additionally,
in , a pioneering error analysis is performed of an adaptive form of
the difference equations that approximate the transient equations of
motion of solid mechanics. This analysis enables explicit determination of
the conditions under which the Leeds group's methods are computationally
stable, thereby providing the MoD with "the confidence in the numerics
to be able to develop physically based material constitutive models and
equations of state" [B] that enabled it to continue its research
programme. So ahead of its time was the Leeds group's organic approach in
 that it was not until 2011 that a competitive approach emerged, via an
entirely independent (genetic-algorithm) theoretical and computational
route (http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00500-010- 0684-x): contemporaneous
alternative approaches required either an a priori knowledge of
the location of the regions to be resolved, or were applicable only to
References to the research
In the following list, references best indicating the quality of the
research are starred, and all Leeds staff appear in bold font. All
documents are available on request.
 Kelmanson, M.A., Error analysis of a 2-D Eulerian impact
code, Defence Research Agency Working Paper
D/ER1/9/4/2062/142/RARDE/6, 65pp., 1993.
[3*] Kelmanson, M.A., Truncation errors in a 2-D
hyperbolic PDE integration scheme, Math. Engng Ind., 6(3),
 MoD grant, "Adaptive Meshing for Impact Dynamics", DRA WSFH/U2122C
(grant holder Goldsworthy, F.A. & Project Manager Kelmanson,
M.A., £74k, 1995-97).
 MoD grant, "Adaptive Meshing for Impact Dynamics", DERA WSS/U6884
(grant holder Goldsworthy, F.A. & Project Manager Kelmanson,
M.A., £43k + £43k, 1998-99 + 1999-2000).
Details of the impact
Provenance of corroboration
The Leeds MoD group conducted its research on a commercial-in-confidence
basis, funded [5,6] by the MoD (formerly as RARDE, DRA and DERA; now as
the private company QinetiQ). The Leeds research underpinned the MoD's
ballistic-simulation computational code — known as "GRIM" — that was
developed by QinetiQ for its main UK customer, Dstl, both of whom are in
the rare position of being able to provide corroborative evidence of
impact. QinetiQ's Senior Research Fellow, the current President of the International
Ballistics Society [E], has accordingly provided two supporting
statements, namely: [B] a generic summary of the end-user benefits
accrued, and; [C] a review of specific impacts, in diverse areas, together
with dates. Both the content of [B,C] and the claims made in this case are
"fully endorsed" [D] by the current Programme Weapons Leader at
Dstl (the main end-user of the GRIM codes underpinned by the Leeds'
research), who states " I have been so impressed by the
capability that it [GRIM] provides to [the] MOD, that I have continued
to fund a number of developments ... the numerical simulation capability
has allowed the MOD to maintain an international credibility in the face
of a changing research focus and financial pressures" [D].
The following list of areas in which GRIM has been applied at both
national and international levels bears testimony to both the reach and
significance of the impact generated by the underpinning Leeds research.
Unless otherwise stated, all claims and quotes in (a)-(b)
and (c)-(f) refer to [B] and [C] respectively.
(a) R & D cost benefits for the MoD
QinetiQ states that the Leeds research was "seminal to the
development of [its] current capability" for several reasons,
including enabling the MoD to focus on a development path that saved the
company "2 years in development work and £1.5m-£2m in costs and
guaranteed a method that was robust and worked." QinetiQ add that "Leeds
research has continued, up to the present day, to underpin the annual
income (£4m) of the Warheads Technology Group at Fort Halstead".
The Leeds research underpinned the validity of QinetiQ's numerics and
demonstrated the benefits of adaption as an effective approach towards
predictive numerical simulation, as a result of which it enabled QinetiQ
to develop what it describes as an "integrated numerical
simulation-experiment methodology" that it is now deploying "over
a widening number of areas with significant cost savings."
QinetiQ uses the adaptive numerical simulations to "routinely develop
concepts without having to resort to large numbers of experimental
trials with significant cost savings". As an example, the company
has described how it recently used simulations to develop an explosively
formed projectile verified at one-third-scale using three experiments, so
that only one experiment was needed to validate the full-scale prediction.
QinetiQ asserts: "Previously this would have required up to 10-20
experiments", and; "This has enabled the MoD research programme,
under severe budgetary pressures, to continue to deliver advanced
research output cost effectively."
(b) International recognition for the UK
The Leeds research underpinning QinetiQ's numerical simulations has given
the company a position of international expertise in the field: "In
this regard we now have a world leading capability in our approach,
which is unique to the UK and Europe and generally in the USA," the
company states. The ability to advise others and share the research has
also given QinetiQ credibility and enabled collaboration on cutting-edge
research with international allies: "By being able to share this
research with our collaborators in the US National Laboratories we were
able to establish the UK as being credible, providing us access to
related US research with significant benefits to the UK."
In more general terms, QinetiQ states: "The Leeds research helped the
UK maintain a leading internationally recognised capability in numerical
research, its ability to write 3rd generation software and its
application in advanced and complex problems of interest to the defence
and security industries."
QinetiQ continues to benefit from the Leeds research as it builds on its
expertise in the area of numerical simulation. The company states: "We
are currently  developing a new code with a completely different
strength treatment, which would not have been possible without the
underpinning provided by the Leeds research." [A]
(c) Protecting the lives of the armed forces
The advanced numerics of GRIM, developed with support of the Leeds
research, have been used by QinetiQ to rapidly assess new threats to the
British Armed Forces in Afghanistan and, latterly, Iraq. Between 2003
and the present day, GRIM has been used extensively in the battle
against improvised explosive devices by allowing Dstl to develop new
countermeasures for deployment on vehicles and body armour, and in the
protection of military bases, all of which has led to a "resultant
reduction in front-line casualties". QinetiQ further state that "Without
the Leeds work we would not have been able to develop our physically
based material algorithms in a predictive capability
to be able to respond to these urgent operational requirements."
(d) Protecting the public
The simulation system has also found civilian applications. Between 1995
and the present day, QinetiQ has supported other government agencies
to assess the effects of different threats to transport and
public-building infrastructure, including planning aspects for the 2012
Olympic Games. "As a result new strategies have been evolved and the
potential of new materials in construction identified", states
(e) Increasing productivity in the oil industry
Between 2008 and the present day, QinetiQ has been working with
oil-extraction companies to improve yields from oil wells. QinetiQ notes
that "In many oil wells only 50% of the available oil is actually
extracted, particularly in wells that exhibit low permeability. The main
reason is because it is uneconomical and impractical to use standard
perforation technologies, which are based on explosive shaped charges."
QinetiQ has used GRIM and its fundamental understanding of materials to
develop a new perforator that increases the energy imparted to the rock
above that offered by conventional perforator shaped charges; this has
been achieved through the use of materials that react under shock loading.
The higher energy results in significantly larger bore-hole volumes which,
in tests by the company GEODynamics [F], have "increased oil flow by
30-40%". QinetiQ add that "The fundamental understanding of the
behaviour of these reactive materials under shock loading and
interpretation of experiments was only possible through the use of GRIM.
This significantly shortened the R&D process, by approximately one
half, the time to market and cost of the programme". Additionally,
QinetiQ "has been able to licence the new perforator design [G],
which is now being extensively used by the industry, throughout the
world, earning royalty fees and benefiting UK oil companies and the
economy". These royalties comprise a "significant fraction"
of the annual £4m income to QinetiQ's Warhead Technology Group
(see quote in §4a); the exact fraction is commercially sensitive
and has not been disclosed by QinetiQ.
(f) Informing expert witnesses
QinetiQ have used GRIM to inform expert witnesses in several high-profile
inquiries, including the Lockerbie disaster, the Oklahoma bomb and the
fatal Larkhall gas explosion. Although these predate the REF period,
QinetiQ state that the GRIM study into the first of these "resulted in
the development of appropriate security strategies and the development
of a `bomb proof' liner for the luggage holds of short haul aircraft":
it is reasonable to assert that the impact of these two developments is
both far reaching and, more importantly, has not only continued into the
REF period, but will continue to do so beyond it.
Sources to corroborate the impact
All sources are stored electronically and are available on request.
[A] (19th October, 2011) Email from "Senior QinetiQ Fellow"
attesting to underpinning nature of Leeds research on QinetiQ's current
[B] (11th June, 2013) Letter from "Senior QinetiQ Fellow"
outlining end-user benefits.
[C] (11th June, 2013) Letter from "Senior QinetiQ Fellow"
outlining and dating end-user impact.
[D] (14th June, 2013) Letter from (end-user) Dstl's "Programme
Leader, Weapons Domain" endorsing the claims made in both this
impact statement and the supporting statements [B,C].
[E] Corroboration of status of author of [A,B,C], who is the current
President of the International Ballistics Society; see 2013 board
of directors at http://www.ballistics.org/board_of_directors.php
[F] (a) PDF of 2010-12 GEODynamics ConneX® (main site
http://www.perf.com/connex/) brochure, with proof of increased production
revenue shown on page 8, which implies flow-rate increases of 50%, i.e.
even better than those cited in [C]. (b) PDF of 2008 version of item [F]
[G] (a) PDF of information on ConneX® reactive perforating shaped charge
used by Weatherford International (main site http://www.weatherford.com)
for oil extraction. (b) Video demonstrating benefits of new technology at