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DTA - Mechanics and radiation tolerance of nanostructured steels for fusion plant structures

   Department of Materials

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  Dr E Jimenez-Melero, Dr K Yan  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Structural steels based on body-centred cubic (bcc) structures are a preferential option for first-wall components in tokamak-type fusion reactors due to their enhanced resistance to radiation-induced void swelling and high-temperature mechanical strength. Such is the case for example of reduced activation ferritic/martensitic (RAFM) steels. Unfortunately, those traditional RAFM steels are thermally unstable at temperatures > 550 °C and their mechanical & creep strength deteriorates, potentially not fulfilling their minimum performance requirements. One alternative approach is the use of powder metallurgy to produce bcc steels with nm-size oxide particles, namely Oxide Dispersion Strengthened (ODS) steels. However, ODS steels cannot be produced to date in relatively large components for their adoption in the fusion community.

The focus of this project is on a new promising alternative to traditional RAFM steels and ODS steels, namely nano-structured steels. Those new FM nano-steels base their appeal on the presence of a thermally-stable population of fine MX particles in larger volume fractions, opening the door to extended operational limits of ~650 °C and potentially beyond that temperature. These steels also offer the unique advantage in this field of being castable into large components. A down-selection of steel chemistries and microstructures will be characterised in-depth using analytical electron microscopy. The most promising steels will be radiation tested using ion irradiation in combination with a transmission electron microscope, in order to visualise in situ the atomic migration, local chemical segregations, nano-particle stability and the lattice defect nucleation & evolution. The plastic deformation mechanisms will be monitored in real time by performing in situ mechanical testing at high-brilliance synchrotron facilities. These results will be retro-fed into steel processing, aiming to accelerate the nano-steel deployment, offering optimised performance under the radiation and thermo-mechanical loads in first-wall fusion structures.

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). 

Academic background of candidates

2:1 in Materials Science, Physics or Mechanical Engineering

2:2 will be considered if the candidate holds an MSc in a relevant research area

Previous knowledge in metallurgy, fusion energy or solid mechanics would be an asset.

To apply please follow the link below:


Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year EPSRC DTA studentship. 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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