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EPSRC iCASE Modified Propellant Burning Surfaces Through Use of Porous Materials

   Cranfield Defence and Security (CDS), Shrivenham Campus

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  Dr R Vrcelj  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This project will explore the wide-open possibilities that novel manufacturing capabilities offer reactive materials. Propellants are traditionally cast or extruded using grains that have specific surface areas which define the burn rate. This involves the use of notches or perforations within each grain.

Historically, porosity has been the enemy of a functional propellant, however, advances in technology and research into foamed structures have shown that porosity could be of benefit. Controlling the porosity can allow more complex burn profiles, and in some cases, increased burning rates. This control could be achieved through modifications in the manufacturing processes, both in the mixing of propellants and the fabrication of the grain. Resonant Acoustic Mixing (RAM) and Additive Manufacturing (AM) offer routes to control propellant porosity.

Foamed propellants, i.e. propellants that have been made porous by the introduction of a gas, have generated interest due to the high burn rates that they can achieve.

These new manufacturing methods have the potential to provide novel means of achieving a porous propellant with more control over pore size and distribution than current methods.

This PhD aims to utilise the advances in AM and RAM technology to produce porous propellants and understand the following:

- Processing parameters required for pore size and distribution control in a propellant grain.

- The effect of controlled porosity on the burning performance of propellant grains

Cranfield Defence and Security (CDS) provide unique educational opportunities to the Defence and security sectors of both public and private sector organisations.

Based at the UK Defence Academy at Shrivenham in Oxfordshire, CDS is the academic provider to the UK Ministry of Defence for postgraduate education at the Defence Academy, training in engineering, science, acquisition, management and leadership.

It is expected that the results of the work will show that direction in which a combination of RAM and AM can alter the landscape for manufacturing processes, and to deliver first class science and technology to a broader audience.

The project will be a collaboration between Cranfield University (Shrivenham site) and BAE Systems, Glascoed. The successful candidate will spend time during their PhD at the BAE Systems site, undergoing industrial training, understanding how current manufacturing occur and having the chance of explaining the impact that their research will have on the industry. The candidate will also be able to attend both national and international conferences.

In addition to the general skills that a PhD student will gain, planning, scientific methods, application of technology to real processes, you will have the chance to be exposed to current working practices at BAE Systems and gain additional experience of industry, as well as a foothold in modern scientific studies.

Funding Notes

This project is fully funded by the EPSRC and BAE Systems for all eligible UK applicants, a bursary of £15,609 p.a. is provided per annum.


Applicants should have a first or second class honours degree or equivalent in a related discipline, such as engineering, chemistry or physics, or other industrial experience. The ideal candidate should have some understanding in the area of programming, design, experimental skills and industrial service delivery.
The candidate should be self-motivated, have good communication skills for regular interaction with other stake holders, with an interest for industrial research. Any successful candidate will be required to undergo security clearance prior to starting the project.
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