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Damage and Fracture in Nuclear and Aerospace Ceramic-Matrix Composites over Multiple Length-scales


Project Description

Ceramic-Matrix Composites (CMCs) are considered to be prime structural materials to replace metals for high temperature applications such as accident tolerant fuel cladding in nuclear reactor core (post Japanese Fukushima accident) and aerospace gas-turbine engine components of the immediate future. As a structural material, the mechanical performance of CMCs at elevated temperatures has been a critical factor for consideration in materials validation and adoption. A sound understanding of the evolution of damage and failure mechanisms in CMCs, and how they relate to intrinsic processing-microstructure-property relationships under extreme conditions, is undoubtedly the key. This sets the imperative and the horizon of this PhD project.

In this project, we are looking for a dedicated and pro-active candidate to work on both nuclear-grade SiC-SiC cladding materials and aerospace-grade SiC-SiC and oxide-oxide CMCs. First of all, you will be using micro-mechanical testing to obtain the local properties of the fibres, matrix and the fibre/matrix interfacial strength followed by nano- and micro-tomography to generate the 3D structure of the materials. Secondly, you will make use of a range of techniques including focus ion beam milling, diffraction and spectroscopy to evaluate the residual stresses in the CMC materials and relate it to manufacturing processes. In terms of the macro-scale testing, you will work with a postdoctoral researcher and another PhD student to conduct experiments using a unique device that permits real time imaging of the formation of three-dimensional (3D) cracks in CMCs at elevated temperatures and in hot steam to understand its failure mechanisms related to service. By the end of project, it is anticipated that the results will produce transformative knowledge about the deformation and fracture of the CMCs over multiple length-scales.

Excellent communication skills are essential as this project requires frequent communications with project partners including US Westinghouse, National Nuclear Laboratory, Rolls-Royce, UK Cross-Manufacturing, Birmingham Univ., UKAEA Culham Fusion Centre, Germany Aerospace Centre and US Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Although it is an experimental-oriented project, a moderate amount of interaction with modelling experts (e.g., Oxford University and Delft University of Technology Netherlands) is expected for joint publications. This project will involve the use of large-scale national facilities such as UK Diamond Light Source, US Advanced Light Source in Berkeley USA and ESRF France hence it will be a unique opportunity for developing multiple experimental skills.

As it is a multiple partner project, the PhD student would receive a rewarding and beneficial training by interacting with academics, national labs and industrial partners. Secondment opportunities with an industrial collaborator is also possible.

You should have a first or upper second-class (or equivalent) undergraduate degree in Materials, Physics, Chemistry or Engineering and the enthusiasm to work with international partners.

How to Apply

Please make an online application for this project at http://www.bris.ac.uk/pg-howtoapply. Please select Physics PhD on the Programme Choice page. You will be prompted to enter details of this specific project in the ‘Research Details’ section of the form.
Anticipated start date: September 2019

Candidate Requirements

A first degree in physics or a related subject, normally at a level equivalent to at least UK upper second-class honours, or a relevant postgraduate master's qualification.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Funding Notes

UK and EU students who meet the eligibility requirements will be considered for an EPSRC DTP studentship or funding from the School of Physics. Funding will cover UK/EU tuition fees, maintenance at the UKRI Doctoral Stipend rate (£14,777 per annum, 2018/19 rate) and a training support fee of £1,000 per annum for a period up to 3.5 years.

Eligibility includes, but is not limited to, being a UK or EU national who was resident in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

We welcome all-year-round applications from self-funded students and students seeking their own funding from external sources.

Related Subjects

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