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Atomic level understanding of radiation effects in next generation nuclear fuels using advanced electron microscopy and x-ray scattering techniques

School of Engineering

Liverpool United Kingdom Inorganic Chemistry Materials Science Solid State Physics

About the Project

Accident tolerant nuclear fuels (ATF) have received renewed attention following the accident at the Fukushima power plants. The primary aim of any ATF is to extend the amount of time to maintain mechanical integrity of the fuel elements and reactor core pressure vessel following the loss of the active cooling. A number of design features contribute to poor accident performance in the current LWRs; of particular concern are the large temperature gradients existing in the fuel due to the low thermal conductivity of the currently employed UO2, and the strongly exothermic reaction of the Zr cladding with steam. Thus, the development of fuel for next generation nuclear reactors aims at improving general performance characteristics, particularly enabling higher burnup and higher power density. Among possible candidates, phases in the U-N, U-C, U-Si systems offer an attractive combination of properties: high uranium loading and higher thermal conductivities than UO2. Possible applications in commercial reactors requires further improvement in structural stability under irradiation. This project will thus focus on accelerated testing of radiation effects to understand material modifications on an atomic level. The work is closely associated with the consortium on Accident ToLerANT Fuels In reCycle (ATLANTIC) and hence consists of fabricating samples at one of the consortium partner institutions; designing specific irradiation experiments to simulate damage by fission fragments and neutrons using energetic ion beams at the Dalton Cumbrian Facility (DCF); and performing post irradiation characterisation using advanced lab/synchrotron based x-ray scattering techniques and electron microscopy at the University of Liverpool.

Applicant Eligibility

Candidates will have, or be due to obtain, a Master’s Degree or equivalent from a reputable University in an appropriate field of Engineering. Exceptional candidates with a First Class Bachelor’s Degree in an appropriate field will also be considered.

Application Process

Candidates wishing to apply should complete the University of Liverpool application form applying for a PhD in Engineering and uploading: Degree Certificates & Transcripts, an up to date CV, a covering letter/personal statement and two academic references. If a candidate wishes to apply for more than one project, should also upload a document listing the preferred projects in a ranked order. 


Candidates wishing to discuss the research project should contact the primary supervisor, those wishing to discuss the application process should discuss this with the School Postgraduate Office []. 

To apply for this opportunity, please visit:

Funding Notes

This Scholarship is for UK [home] students only and has a financial package including: annual stipend at the UKRI rate [currently £15,285 per annum], student fees and a research support grant [for conferences & travel, consumables etc] for 3.5 academic years. The funding has been available from the following endowments of the School of Engineering: Kitchner Fellowship, Munitions Fellowship, Mrs W M Horsman Endowment and Andrew Hamilton Endowment.

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