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CDT - PhD in Examining the Combined Effect of Irradiation and Microsegregation on the Microstructure and Mechanical Properties on Low-Alloy Steel Welds

   Department of Materials

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project is based at the Department of Materials at the University of Manchester, and is sponsored by Rolls Royce. We are seeking applicants with a 2.1 or 1st class degree in a STEM discipline. 

 Many of the components used in nuclear power plants are produced from low-alloy steels, which are welded together during construction to form complete parts. During welding, solidification takes place in the ‘fusion zone’ of the weld, and this can introduce chemical segregation on a small scale (tens of microns). Such compositional variations are referred to as ‘microsegregation’, see Fig. 1, and can lead to microstructural variations in the fusion zone material. This is because the microstructures (and resulting properties) of steels depend strongly on chemical composition.

This project aims to determine the effect of microsegregation on the microstructure and mechanical properties of fusion-zone material following irradiation with protons. Irradiation is known to cause changes in the microstructure of alloys, often leading to increased levels of hardness and brittleness. The combined effect of microsegregation and irradiation damage is not well characterised in weld fusion zones, and requires careful examination (this is where the key novelty in the project lies).

The main objectives are as follows:

• Use advanced proton irradiation facilities at the University of Manchester’s Dalton Cumbria Facility (DCF) to irradiate welds to mimic the effect of exposure to reactor conditions. 

• Following irradiation, characterise the microstructures and mechanical properties of the welds using advanced techniques available at the University of Manchester and the Henry Royce Institute (e.g., scanning electron microscopy, transmission electron microscopy).

• Compare the results obtained from two different welding techniques:

(i)                narrow-gap tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, a conventional welding method for large nuclear components, and

(ii) electron-beam welding, an advanced method of joining that is being investigated for future use.

The project will examine welds made using steel grades that are commonly used in nuclear plants, such that the results are of maximum relevance to the industrial partner, Rolls-Royce. There may be opportunities for the student to spend time at Rolls-Royce to gain experience of working in an industrial environment.  

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 (). 

For more information on the research scope of the project please contact Ed Pickering at .

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact. We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

We also support applications from those returning from a career break or other roles. We consider offering flexible study arrangements (including part-time: 50%, 60% or 80%, depending on the project/funder).

All appointments are made on merit.

Funding Notes

This is a 4 year PhD studentship covering fees and stipend (£16,062 in 2022-23) plus a £3250 per year top up. Funding will cover UK tuition fee and stipend only.

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