The aim of the project is to evaluate the impact of the local microstructure on the radiation damage and mechanical performance of neutron-irradiated Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPV) steels at relevant reactor conditions and in the bulk microstructure, with sufficient spatial resolution and chemical sensitivity to identify local changes in chemistry, phases, microstructure and plasticity/hardening. Unfortunately there is still excessive scatter in the available microstructural data, already coming from chemical/structural heterogeneities in the (non-irradiated) base line material and also due to welding, and the link between irradiation effects and tensile/fracture behaviour is still not well established and accepted by the nuclear community. This is affecting model reliability to inform safety cases for long-term operation of the current nuclear fleet. Neutron bombardment induces solute-enriched nano-clusters, dislocation loops and/or vacancy-type aggregates, together with a simultaneous increase in hardness of the material. Microstructural analysis of irradiated RPV steels is traditionally performed either with nanometre resolution on very small volumes of material, or on a micro/mesoscale (multiple grains and larger volumes) averaged over a large region of interest.
In this project, the student will have the unique opportunity to use high-energy synchrotron X-ray beams of (sub-)micron dimensions and high flux to assess the chemical, phase and defect heterogeneities in the pristine non-irradiated and irradiated material with sufficient spatial resolution probing a relatively large area of interest, and to monitor in-situ during mechanical deformation the plasticity and strain localization as a function of the local microstructure. This work will be supported by ex-situ analytical (S)TEM-based microstructural characterisation techniques, both imaging and microanalysis with unprecedented spatial resolution, to assess the structural defect and irradiation-induced solute cluster characteristics at selected locations in the heterogeneous material, and their impact on dislocation mobility during deformation.
Academic background of candidates
Applicants are expected to hold, or be about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Materials Science, Physics or Mechanical Engineering. Previous knowledge in metallurgy, nuclear energy or solid mechanics would be an asset.
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.
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