SOME of the world’s most historically important tanks are being conserved, with help from Bournemouth University (BU).

More than 300 tanks at The Tank Museum in Bovington, some used in the D-Day landings, will benefit from university research, into conservation and protection of historically significant vehicles against metal fatigue and ageing.

The museum, alongside BU’s NanoCorr, Energy & Modelling (NCEM) Research Group, have funded research into causes of structural deterioration within large vehicles in the museum environment since 2009.

The modelling technology allows for faster and more reliable structural analysis than was previously possible, which has brought about savings in terms of costs, time and labour for the Tank Museum.

Museum deputy director Helen Smith said: “The Tank Museum is responsible for the preservation of over 300 historic armoured vehicles. Slowing the deterioration of metal is a significant part of that care, but it is a subject that hasn’t been explored in depth before.

"Working with Bournemouth University on this project will allow us to protect and conserve our vehicles for future generations.”

Speaking about the CMAP software developed for the museum, BU’s professor of design, engineering and computing, Zulfiqar Khan said: “Modelling is usually theoretical and doesn’t completely fit on actual operational conditions therefore we developed in-situ condition monitoring techniques to enhance prediction models through detailed experimental results. In-situ condition monitoring techniques have been further developed in to remote smart sensing techniques”.

“We assume certain properties, but in reality it might not be the case. In order to model atmospheric contents – atmospheric quality is very important in terms of structural integrity failure – we monitored actual data in the Bovington area for three and a half years. We took day-by-day, hour-by-hour data, resulting in more than 153,000 data points.”

Professor Khan’s team have investigated 15 tanks, including the US’s Sherman M4 tank, Germany’s Tiger 1 tank, and the UK’s Valentine tank.

BU’s maritime archaeological department research has also evaluated and investigated the condition of seven Valentine tanks sunk off the coast of Studland Bay, where six soldiers of the Royal Dragoon Guards were lost in Operation Smash, a live-fire exercise ahead of D-Day.

"This put to practice all of the theory work that I had done during my undergraduate degree. The multiple dives to check out anomalies, the recording, measuring and the use of search patterns was a great all around introduction to underwater work.”

The British-made Valentine tanks, converted to amphibious vehicles with the help of a 2.5m high canvas skirt, were found to be heavily dependent on calm waters, and had been designed to manage waves of under one foot, resulting in their loss in Poole Bay and subsequent replacement by US Sherman tanks ahead of D-Day.