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  (CDT Advanced Metallic Systems) A Digital Twin of abnormally coarse grain structures in critical titanium forgings for military aircraft applications

   Department of Materials

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  Prof P Prangnell, Dr P Shanthraj, Dr J Fonseca  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This project is based at the University of Manchester and is sponsored by DSTL and seeks candidates with a 2.1 or 1st class degree in a STEM discipline, particularly Applied Mathematics, Materials Science, Physics or Mechanical Engineering with an interest in computational modelling. If English is not your first language you must have IELTS 7.0 (or equivalent).

Military fast jets utilise titanium forgings for highly loaded structures that have a microstructure designed to give high resistance to fatigue crack growth. This is achieved by a specific heat treatment – above the α-β beta phase change temperature (β-transus) in titanium alloys – called ‘beta-annealing’. During this heat treatment it has been discovered that in large forgings, which have a complex and heterogeneous thermomechanical history, some regions of the microstructure can develop very large grains (Fig. 1). These ‘abnormally coarse’ grain structures are of concern for service-life prediction because of their potential impact on fatigue crack growth performance.

The aim of the project is to use advanced in-situ characterisation experiments and modelling simulations to create a digital twin of the abnormal grain structure phenomenon, to aid in prevention of its occurrence and enable accurate through life support of military air platforms. More accurate life prediction of critical aviation structures allows the cost-effective management of air platforms without any reduction in safety.

Specifically, the project will using samples of known thermomechanical processing (TMP) history to systematically generate different starting texture states, and study their behaviour during beta-annealing using advanced in-situ characterisation methods, to support the creation of a phase field model to describe their grain growth behaviour. The phase field model will then be used to predict regimes of microstructure instability, which can be fed into parallel forging models and research on the effect of microstructure on fatigue crack growth (developed in other projects).

The research builds on recent advances on this topic across the aviation sector, for example in understanding the effect of abnormally large grains on fatigue crack growth phenomena and, crucially, will contribute to an area where current understanding is poor; namely, the mechanisms involved and the correlation to the prior-material state and boundary mobilities, on grain coarsening instabilities in titanium alloys.

A key feature of this project is that it will form part of the UK MOD contribution to a five nation effort, which will involve partners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. It is possible that the student will have the opportunity to travel to collaborating laboratories as part of the project.

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Metallic Systems is a partnership between industry and the Universities of Sheffield, Manchester and I-Form Advanced Manufacturing Centre, Dublin. CDT students undertake a 4-year doctorate with an in-depth compulsory technical and professional skills training programme. Please review our training programme, application process and full entry requirements at Please note, application is only via the University of Manchester (see website), and general enquiries can be made to the CDT ([Email Address Removed]). For more information on the research scope of the project please contact Professor Philip Prangnell ([Email Address Removed])

Please note that this project will close before the advertised end date if a suitable applicant is secured. We suggest that you do not delay submitting your application.

Chemistry (6) Materials Science (24) Mathematics (25)

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year PhD studentship covering fees and stipend (£15,609 in 2021-22) plus £3,250 per year top-up. Funding will cover UK tuition fee and stipend only. The University of Manchester aims to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK. We are able to offer a limited number of scholarships that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.
Start date: September 2022
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