Globally there are many legacy nuclear estates – often built decades ago without consideration for their eventual fate – which are now undergoing nuclear decommissioning and remediation to return the sites to normal use. In the UK, this process is managed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
One of the many challenges for decommissioning these sites is the in-situ analysis of vessels, pipes, packages, and other plant infrastructure. Instruments are needed that can image internal structure and provide quantitative information on density and elemental makeup – both ‘what’ and ‘where’ – while also being easy to deploy in challenging environments. This is what this PhD project aims to address.
In this project, funded by the NDA, you will gain experience working with both academia and industry partners in a highly regulated sector of national importance. The studentship is 4 years long and provides a tax-free stipend (payment) plus tuition fees at the UK rate. Funding for conference travel, lab materials, bespoke training, an industrial secondment and test campaigns at national facilities is also in place.
X-ray backscatter imaging is a non-destructive analysis technique, where X-rays are directed at a target and Compton/back-scattered photons imaged. Existing industrial systems with large, heavy infrastructures are not suitable for deployment in active environments (not hermetically sealed or radiation-hard), as they would require high-power X-ray tubes, and produce solely qualitative/relative images.
Exploiting the stability and monoenergetic emissions of a sealed source, this project will apply recent advances in spectroscopic imaging, analysis and detection, as well as collimator manufacture, to enable quantitative imaging.
Your research will include a mix of computational and experimental work to develop and characterise these instruments. Monte Carlo simulations (using GEANT4) will allow you to explore the fundament physical limits of the technique and to create new image reconstruction algorithms. You will benchmark your simulations through experiments, initially in labs at Loughborough and then at specialist sites. Alongside detector physics research, you will also gain experience in the realities of design for compliance, autonomous deployment (e.g. proof of concept drone deployment), performance and usability, supply chain management, application-specific engineering, and communication between academic and industrial sectors and policy makers.
This project offers the opportunity to produce new findings and techniques in imaging physics, develop and build a new imaging tool, and assist in the NDAs mission to decommission legacy nuclear sites safely and cost effectively.
Find out more:
Why do a PhD at Loughborough?
Centre for the Science of Materials
A recent paper demonstrating density analysis
94% of Loughborough’s research impact is rated world-leading or internationally excellent. REF 2021
Primary Supervisor: Sarah Bugby
Email: [Email Address Removed]
Secondary Supervisor: Cunjia Lui
Email: [Email Address Removed]
Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent) in Physics, Engineering, or a related subject. A relevant master’s degree or work experience would be an advantage. We welcome interest from applicants with a range of backgrounds.
Experience with programming is vital. The ideal student will be practically minded, a fast learner, and self-motivated, and should be comfortable working to deadlines and managing their own time. This project requires strong written and verbal communication skills. Although not required, knowledge and experience in areas such as radiation detectors, computational simulation, systems engineering and experimental techniques with sources of ionising radiation are applicable.
How to apply
All applications should be made online. Under programme name, select Physics. Please quote the advertised reference number: SB/PH-3/2023 in your application and ensure that you submit a CV and the minimum supporting documents. For more guidance, please also see the studentship assessment criteria.