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Evaluating the structural integrity of nuclear materials by long duration neutron diffraction

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Friday, March 01, 2019
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

In nuclear reactor, structural components experience complex cyclic loading associated with start-up/shut-down and following electricity demand. But most cycles involve long periods of ‘dwell’ time where the plant operates around steady state design conditions. For many structural metals the failure mode often changes from transgranular to intergranular when ‘dwell’ time are introduced and the cyclic life is progressively reduced with increasing hold time. Previous studies suggested that this changes in creep performance is associated with internal stresses introduced by cyclic loading, for example intergranular stresses resulting from the mismatch in orientation between grains, and intragranular stresses which originate in the heterogeneity of the spatial distribution of dislocations.

In situ neuron diffraction technique provides the possibility of recording changes of intergranular and intragranular stresses while the component is undergoing controlled deformation. The changes in d-spacing between different sets of crystallographic {hkl} planes can quantify the intergranular stress; at the same time, the diffraction peak profile of different reflections, including the width and the asymmetry, can be used to indicate the accumulation of dislocations and therefore to quantify the level the intragranular stresses.
At engineering neutron beamline ENGIN-X, ISIS Neutron and Muon source, scientist and engineers are preparing for the very first long duration neutron diffraction experimental capacity. Supported by the miniature specimen technique, multiple thermal-mechanical loading rigs will carry out long duration experiments, including creep, fatigue and creep-fatigue. At particular points of creep time or loading cycle, testing rig will be transported by robotic arm into the hutch and collecting the diffraction spectrums along the loading and transverse direction.

In this project, the PhD candidate will work closely with beamline scientists at ENGIN-X, probing the correlation between loading path, dwelling time and temperature for two first wall structural materials in fusion reactor, low activation austenitic stainless steel (316LN) and ferritic-martensitic steels (F82H), which have different crystallographic structures. Complemented with dislocation characteristics obtained via transmission electron microscopy, this project is aiming to understand the interrelationship among materials micro-stresses and loading history, which leads to a more reliable prediction of materials creep/fatigue performance and life time assessment.

Applicants should have or expect to achieve at least a 2.1 honours degree in Materials Science and Engineering or Mathematics.

The proposed start date for the PhD is 2nd September 2019 and the duration of the PhD is 3.5 years with 6 months writing up.

Funding Notes

This project is in competition with other projects for the DTA funding
Eligibility of the applicant:

Eligible candidates for full awards (fees and stipend): UK or EU nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for the 3 years prior to the start of the PhD programme.

The following resource have been confirmed for this PhD project:
1) Testing rigs and robotic arms (ENGIN-X, ISIS)
2) supply of reactor’s ex-service materials (EDF Energy)
3) consultancy time and empirical data (Wood plc)


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