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Developing the next generation of plasma-facing materials by understanding the formation of irradiation-induced defects in tungsten

  • Full or part time

    Prof G Burke
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 01, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Tungsten (W) is the primary material of choice to be used for plasma-facing components (first wall and divertor) because of its superior high-temperature properties, neutron irradiation resistance and low retention of implanted tritium. Neutron irradiation changes the mechanical and physical properties of materials due to the accumulation and evolution of the primary defects into stable nanometre-sized interstitial and vacancy clusters. According to Molecular Dynamics (MD) simulations, 97% of the defects formed under irradiation are smaller than 2 nm, and they contribute significantly to the hardening effects in the irradiated material. Despite of the importance of this fact, no experimental technique yet exists to study these defects at the atomic level. Therefore, this project aims to observe and analyse the 3D structure of these defects at atomic resolution.

In this project, you will be using the state-of-the-art scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) at the SuperSTEM Laboratory (UK National facility) to characterise the structure of ion-irradiated W alloys down to the atomic level. By taking advantage of very recent developments in instrumentation, STEM image simulation, and data processing techniques, you will be able to reconstruct the structure in 3D at the atomic scale. The experimental results will be combined with atomistic simulation performed in collaboration with scientists based at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), UK and the University of Helsinki, Finland to understand the underlying physics of the defect formation at the atomic scale. This approach will enable the design of an improved W-based plasma-facing components for the new generation of Fusion reactors.

In this project you will develop strong expertise in electron microscopy techniques and Fusion research. You will also collaborate with world-leading experts in the modelling of irradiation-induced defect clusters and you will have the opportunities to travel abroad to perform experiments in the US, France and other countries. Moreover, you will develop strong scripting/programming skills for data analysis using Python and its whole scientific stack. All of these transferable skills and knowledge will prepare you for a wide range of career opportunities. This PhD project is part of a EUROFusion-funded project and part of an international collaboration between the UK (University of Manchester, Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE), SuperSTEM Laboratory) and Finland (University of Helsinki).

Project in collaboration with the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (UKAEA).

This project is supervised by Dr Eric Prestat and Prof Grace M Burke (both from The University of Manchester) and Dr Joven Lim (Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, UK).

Funding Notes

DTA funded for UK/ EU students and is also available to self funded students (worldwide). Proposed start date: 1st October 2019, duration is 3.5 years. Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree or equivalent in Physics or Materials Science.

Funding covers tuition fees and annual maintenance payments of at least the Research Council minimum (£14,777 for academic year 2019/20) for eligible UK and EU applicants. EU nationals must have lived in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the programme to be eligible for a full award (fees and stipend).

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