Project aims to understand how to preserve old tanks

Britain's Bovington Tank Museum is to co-sponsor a PhD researcher to help develop better methods for conserving historic vehicles. The researcher will work with experts in sustainable design at nearby Bournemouth University (BU), in a three-year project starting later this year.

The Tank Museum holds the most important collection of its kind in the world, with almost 300 historic armoured vehicles in its care. The collection includes the world’s first ever tank and a number of others maintained in running order for public displays.

"This is a tremendously exciting project that will apply academic expertise to a unique set of vehicles and ensure that they can be preserved for generations to come," declared Richard Smith, the museum's director.

"This PhD forms one of four doctoral research posts co-sponsored by education and industry - an innovative approach to funding for this level of academic study within higher education," said Professor Mark Hadfield, head of research & enterprise in BU's school of design, engineering & computing.

The research will be guided by Dr Zulfiqar Khan from BU's Sustainable Design Research Centre. His team aims to understand and improve tank preservation techniques and strategies by learning about how tank engines run after extensive periods of non-usage, how ageing affects the structure of tanks, and how much it costs to run such historic vehicles.

"The interesting aspects of this project are the requirements to run and operate large and heavy vehicles after periods of non-use in various humidity and temperature environments," Dr Khan explained. "Starting engines after long periods of disuse provides a particular challenge in terms of tribological aspects of moving lubricated components.

"In addition, the tank structure is subject to stresses due to suspension and material ageing and misalignment. Concentrated residual stress, corrosion, stress corrosion cracking and fatigue stress within the structure need to be considered in balance with economical and sustainable aspects."

He added that the project will also consider the ethical dimensions in preserving museum vehicles - for example, the balance between original and reproduction parts.

Applications for the PhD research post close on 30tJune 2009.

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