Predicting the interaction of bone remodelling units through finite element analysis

Study level

Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Edmund Pickering
Postdoctoral Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Professor Peter Pivonka
Professor and Chair of Biomedical Engineering and Spinal Disorders
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Bone is living tissue and, like all living tissue, it is constantly being repaired and replaced. Each year, this occurs to approximately 10% of human bone.

In the cortical bone, bone remodelling is driven by the bone remodelling unit (BMU). The BMU is formed by two fundamental cells, osteoclast and osteoblasts. Osteoclasts resorb bone in front of the BMU, leaving a cavity, while the osteoblasts lay down new bone. Through these mechanics the BMU travels along the length of the bone.

As part of the remodelling process, the BMU responds to mechanical stimuli. It is hypothesised that the direction the BMU travels in the bone is predicted by the strain energy density (SED). Through this mechanism the path the BMU takes through the bone should be predictable.

This project aims to use finite element modelling to predict the behaviour of BMUs as they remodel the bone. Critically, we are interested in how multiple BMUs interact (think of two BMUs moving towards each other, what will they do?).

In this project you will build a finite element model of two BMUs in bone using ANSYS APDL. You will then study how the BMUs interact based upon the SEF fields. This work will aid in the understanding of bone remodelling.

Research activities

In this project, you will join the Biomechanics & Spin Research Group (BSRG) team headed by Prof Peter Pivonka and will work in our office in O block.  You will gain a deeper exposure into finite element analysis (FEA), biomedical engineering and theories on bone adaptation.

You will build a finite element model of BMUs in ANSYS APDL, use various ‘signals’ to predict the direction of motion of the BMUs and extrapolate new knowledge about how BMUs interact in human bone from this data.


In this project you will build a finite element model capable of predicting how BMUs interact in the cortical bone.

You will perform post-processing of stress and strain distributions to calculate potential mechanical signals that guide BMU directions.

Skills and experience

If you are a second and third year medical and mechanical engineer student then this project is for you.

Experience in FEA, ANSYS APDL and MATLAB is desired but not required.

We are here to help you, so please contact us if you have any questions about your prior experiences and skills.


For enquiries, please contact Edmund Pickering (