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DTA - Microstructure based numerical simulation and microscale strain field measurement of nuclear power plants steels during creep deformation

   Department of Materials

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  Dr K Yan, Dr F Scenini  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Creep deformation behaviour is critical in evaluating the integrity and safe-operation of components in applications for demanding environments including nuclear. It is assessed through (i) extensive & costly laboratory testing and (ii) the use of mathematical modelling predictions. Currently, nuclear industry is undertaking innovative creep test-technique developments, applying novel test specimens and state-of-the-art digital image correlation (DIC) to quantify creep. This enables capturing multiple test datasets at once, thus increasing test data whilst reducing costs. Due to the safety critical nature of components, it is imperative that accurate predictions of creep properties can be made and this is achieved through modelling. Empirical models are used by industry, predicting creep and this data is used in component life-assessment procedures. The models were developed from statistical methods utilising large amounts of test data and provide a guideline of mean and boundary creep behaviour. However, they do not take into account the essence of a material, i.e. its microstructure, or the microstructure - property relationship which changes during operation and impacts creep. Examination of materials from service revealed that creep behaviour is highly related to microstructure development and that significant variations exist even in the same material grade. Clearly, microstructure-based creep modelling would allow the engineers and researchers to correlate real-life nuclear reactor materials’ microstructural characteristics (grain size/orientation, inclusions and voids) with its creep behaviour via continuum mechanical modelling, creating a powerful & enhanced predictive tool. 

This project aims to advance understanding of how the microstructure and material properties affects deformation of structural materials employed in demanding conditions using microstructure-based creep modelling and in-situ DIC strain measurement. This includes two aspects, namely:

(1)    In situ high-temperature DIC data acquisition and verification. This DIC experimental platform has been setup at the High Temperature Facility (HTF), which is part of the UK National Nuclear User Facility (, acquiring long duration time-resolved digital images of nuclear reactor stainless steels during creep deformation at reactor operating temperatures; 

(2)    Microstructure-based predictions of creep behaviour using user-defined subroutines in finite element modelling platform (ABAQUS). The candidate of this project has access to equipment and research facilities at the University of Manchester and the newly established UK national institute for advanced materials, Henry Royce Institute ( The project will also benefit from the professional guidance and the significant expertise of a leading industrial consultants Jacobs ( 

Academic background of candidates

Upper second class or above major in Materials science/ Mechanical Engineering and related disciplines.

At the University of Manchester, we pride ourselves on our commitment to fairness, inclusion and respect in everything we do. We welcome applications from people of all backgrounds and identities and encourage you to bring your whole self to work and study. We will ensure that your application is given full consideration without regard to your race, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, age, marital or pregnancy status, or socioeconomic background. All PhD places will be awarded on the basis of merit.

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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